Plasencia to Salamanca to Madrid

Plasencia

If you are ever in Plasencia the best breakfast is down near the Clávelo gate, just outside the old walled town.

A small bar run by a woman who cares about the food she offers. Very nice toast, fresh tomato and good olive oil. And, she remembers your preferences from day to day, unlike some of the grumpy old men who run bars. She is busy, a constant flow of people, many of whom are clearly regulars.

By contrast, the cafe near the information centre provides oil, and tomato tasting like cheap ketchup, in sachets. Ugh. You were told!

For the most wonderful salmorejo, the tomato based soup, go to Hotel Palacio Carvajal Girón. The service is as good as the food and the nice dining room.

For gazpacho go to Restaurante Santa Tomas, up the hill past the aqueduct. Otherwise, I lived on the wonderful torta de casar cheese with fresh bread and strawberries and cream. Yeah, yeah! Too much! Well, that’s what my pants started to say.

Market day

Plasencia has one of the best open air fresh food markets I’ve been to in spain. A variety of fruit and veg, home made cheeses and chorizos of all types, seedlings, flowers and even white truffles. Plus many types of melons, legumes and olives.

The huge slabs of the fish you see most commonly, bacalao, always puzzle me: type of fish, if mainly preserved with salt still etc.

It’s held on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Dammit that I’ll have no more cooking facilities this trip.

Reminds me: the Plaza Mayor is overseen by a most unusual clock.

One of the most unusual must-sees in Plasencia is a sculpture in a fairly central square. Interesting! Nothing near it to say who did it or what it meant to them.

Moving on: leaving the apartment in Plasencia was a highlight. I really dislike cold and dark apartments. Plus I slept badly, too aware of some malevolent nocturnal presence.

Salamanca

What a beautiful city. Who could tire of Salamanca? Rhetorical. Don’t send responses.

My feet knew where to go. I walked from the bus station, checked into the usual hotel, and was still in time to get to Zazu’s for lunch.

Not just the once. Interesting salad, a pasta with salmon and, the other day, bacalao with asparagus ‘sauce’.

My feet then led me to some familiar haunts: a supermarket that has good sushi and to the cheesecake shop. Yes, and along various interesting streets and through the Plaza Mayor quite a few times.

Amazing how empty it can look early in the morning.

Everywhere you go the special nature of this city is evident.

From a central shopping area to the omnipresent views representing past glories.

Cathedrals? Roman bridge? University? Not directly this time but I did buy some nice new walking pants. 😁 For future trips 😏

Above all I had 2 restful days. My room faced the square and, sigh, was light and bright.

But, I ‘failed’ breakfast both days. On the first day it was absurdly expensive and the camerero was a very unhappy guy. On day 2 the tomato had enough salt for stage 1 of a salt mine. Inedible. Can’t win them all but, winning one would have been nice.

Saturday in Salamanca

Another day in a big city. Many out shopping and others just looking.

Outside one church boys dressed as sailors, or an admiral, or in lounge suits with a tie or bow tie, and a girl dressed as a bride all just ‘done’, their first communion finished.

All good things must come to an end. Time to leave. Flight home coming up all too soon.

Salamanca to Madrid

Got the slow train, remind me next time to get the quick one. But, it left at a time that suited me, around 12:30pm.

Advertisements

Plasencia (2)

Alphonso 8th laid the foundation stone for Plasencia in 1186. Before then? Yes, there’s evidence of people living here for a very long time. Politicians just don’t change, do they. Lay it, put your name on it…. Get your statue/photo up for all to see.

Parts of Plasencia are very impressive. For example, the aqueduct is long and in better condition than that in Merida. And impressive. Just part of daily life here.

Many impressive buildings, some looking like recent orphans among remnants of the Middle Ages. Imagine if stones could speak.

And some buildings look as though nothing has changed forever.

Near the Middle Ages locality is a chapel with the various floats and costumes used by some of the participating groups (cofraderies) during the local Semana Santa. And it’s not all old. One started in the last 20 or 30 years.

And the ‘floats’ are truly amazing. One shows the last supper, another, Christ being taken down from the cross and another, him being supported afterwards by Mary. Very impressive. And I’ve loved the costumes members of the cofraderies wear.

The cathedral is also very impressive.

And yes, I just looked from outside. I’ve given enough to the church to last a long lifetime so, no more to look at possible treasures.

Some buildings have an old family crest. Some were noticeable overachievers or members of very well connected and very large families.

Lots of impressive arches all over town.

A simple red poppy against a stone wall was as impressive.

The Plaza Mayor in Plasencia is one of the most impressive, and alive, I’ve seen. I counted 10 restaurants/cafes around it one day. May have missed a couple…

The overlooking houses are narrow, like the one I’m in. Hard to imagine much natural natural light in the middle of any floors but the top.

Two big parks in town: one that is an island in the river flowing through the lower section of the city and another called the Park of the Pines. The latter could not be more different: on a hill, lots of large exposed basalt rocks and many peacocks, white and the usual colour. Noisy. Spectacular.

I’ve been in Plasencia too long. Woke this morning thinking ‘hooray, bus today, Thursday’. No. Confused. It’s on Friday. However, I enjoyed exploring again today.

And, I’ve now got some new ideas for future walking in Spain, maybe for a spare week in October if it’s not to cold. For example, a part of Extremadura adjoining Portugal has some fascinating houses, and, its own language, not just a dialect. To the southwest of here is a region with various Roman remains. Oh, and castles. Or, I could join the Via de la Plata for some of my favourite sections near here. Worth thinking about as I’ll be stir crazy after a month at school in Madrid, exercising just in the gym.

Next: bus to Salamanca, ‘cos it’s there! Then, a train to Madrid, giving me a couple of days to collect my gear and make it all fit in one backpack before heading home.

Last job tonight: a battle with the washing machine. It won. It could provide a service testing the durability of clothes. I had to turn it off or it might still be going tomorrow.

Merida to Plasencia and a tribute to Alex

Leaving Merida, Tuesday 15 May

Absolute sheer pleasure! Oh yes. My boots both fit me again and there is (almost) NO pain. The swelling has gone, along with the toenail. Ahhh. I managed well over 10,000 steps on tuesday. In walking shoes. Phew..

Thinking of little difficulties: the local accent in Merida was a interesting. Imagine how you understand ‘do(s)’, meaning 2, when the end s is dropped! And imagine trying to converse with little changes like that in every word. 🤣🤣🤣

Bus

Travelling by bus past towns I’ve walked through, including Grimaldo, Caceres and Canaveral, was a mix of pleasure and disappointment: I’d have preferred another 4 or 5 days of walking after arriving at Merida. But, c’est la vie and I’ve got a chance to see a city I’d heard about a while ago, Plasencia, another old walled city. And it helps remind me how uncertain the future will always be, however we try to control it.

Plasencia

Easy to find where I’d booked and I discovered my new landlord, Miguel, knows as much about me as you do. I’d answered his query about my arrival time on email. Yes, it contains my blog address. He gave me possibly the best introduction to an apartment and a town I’ve ever had. Very personable and, luckily for me, doesn’t speak english so, we had to use Spanish. 😎

The apartment is probably the narrowest and darkest I’ve ever had. Less than a metre wide at its narrowest, I still duck when I walk under one passage light and through the arch. Don’t need to but both feel dangerously low. This apartment provides a good way to envisage life a few centuries ago in these houses: cold and dark.

At 09:00 or 10:00, with all blinds and shutters open, you can see how dark it is when you look to the distant bit of light in the front room of the house. If from there you look back to the bedroom it’s a little like the black hole of Calcutta, even when the hall lights are on. Sigh.

Central location and it has the facilities I’d expected but, yes, very dark and very cold. I left the front and back windows open all day to at least warm it up to the outside temperature. Didn’t work but, the heaters do and I’ve got a washing machine and stove. 😏. Ahh for feng shui applied. 😁

Plasencia as a tourist

I’ve spent the past few days wandering, seeing tourist haunts and trying the local food. Obvious here is tourist central with the number of shops specialising in local cheeses, jamón and olive oil. A local torta de casar is a bit stronger and even nicer than the one in Merida,

and I found a very nice gazpacho with the makings. Could eat that every day and be happy doing it.

The city walls are impressive in Plasencia. A large section is extant, enough to retain 6 gates, and best of all, you can walk along a section and look over some outer areas of the town.

There is still something magical seeing houses and streets alongside city walls and looking out, over a town.

More to come on Plasencia in the next blog. First, something more important.

Tribute to Dr Alex Ward

The world lost a great guy when Alex recently shucked his mortal coil. I lost a guy I really liked, a friend, my research partner for many years and together we coauthored many research papers and a book. Life was tough for him over the past few years and his death reminds me how important it is to live while you are alive. Farewell Alex.

I’ve found it hard to accept he really has gone, someone I’ve known for nearly 40 years, but I’ve now got a copy of his funeral notice. That makes it real, and final. He’ll be buried next Wednesday, as I’m flying into Dubai, on my way home. Thanks Sarah.

Merida: bread, circus and a museum

Bread

Over to the south east of Plaza España, the side away from the larger tourist focus and not far from the bull ring, is small town Spain, yes, in the middle of this city. The bakery opens daily and has great bread. I especially like their ‘Viena’, a type of wide roll, not as crusty as some. Goes very well with the special cheese from this area, torta de Casa, the one where you cut off the top and dip bread into the soft contents.

Nearby are a couple of cafeterias and a churrería, all around the Plaza, a concreted area surrounded by a few banks of benches and with a couple of stalwart deciduous trees. If I came back late morning the benches would be occupied by old men. I like this part of Merida. Not necessarily as attractive but, interesting.

Circus

A km or so north west of this area is the site of the old Roman circus. Not a lot to see. More interesting is that no one seems to have done much restoration.

It’s sometimes surprising how little of most monuments is real, original, with the stones or bricks actually having been laid by the romans or the group to which it’s attributed. However, two thousand years is a long time and it was unlikely that huge unused monuments would be maintained, unchanged, forever by anyone. Especially when the area was subsequently conquered by lots of other groups, like the different Visigoth tribes here and, later, the Moores. And later again, the christians and still later Franco’s mob. On and on it’s gone. Laying, relaying, decay, relaying, decay….

Among the old photos in the museum are some showing the state of the Roman theatre in Merida prior to reconstruction. Not a lot was left intact and I’m guessing it and the surrounding land, like the Parthenon in Rome, was used for farming. Same with the circus.

I’m wondering if the aqueduct is different, perhaps largely unchanged over time as it would be difficult to pull out a few stones or bricks for your new place.

It remains one of my favourite parts of Merida. And left me wondering how the romans measured height above sea level as they had to calculate the fall for this aqueduct over the 6km from their local cistern to the nearby reservoir.

Oh, and the storks who now have babies!

The Roman bridge is neat and a little of that is original. Five dinghies in the water today each seemed to be picking up rubbish from around the shoreline. Odd. At first I thought they were fishing but the fluro vests and their interest in the shoreline made me wonder.

Spoke to a local and she told me they were picking up bits of a troublesome weed. Made more sense. She kept extolling the virtues of Roman Merida so I asked her what she thought of Medellin, another well preserved Roman site, about 30km away. In her entire 70 years she has never been there. Never! She hastened to tell me where she’d been. No, not out of Spain but to Madrid.

Not much really remains of the Alcazar and it’s a bit less than 1,000 years old.

I still like Trajan’s arch.

And find it amazing how far below the current road level it is. You can see from a remaining door by its side. How impressive it must have been before the marble facing disappeared.

Museum

Actually visited a couple. Yes, more Roman road and marble statues, one of Ceres the god of agriculture and a guy with a 6-pack+. And a little wall painting from a Roman mansion.

And I was so impressed by the juxtaposition of an original Roman column against the inside of the modern museum.

Notwithstanding all the history of Merida, the locals remain as diverse as in any other place. The beggar looks like her many family members across spain, usually outside a church or supermarket. Baptisms of babies continue. And I had a particular sympathy with a guy represented in a statue commemorating all those that have made possible the celebrations of Santa Semana in Merida. His hat is by his side as he massages his poor foot! So yes, personal.

Toenail

Ah yes, you were asking about R toe 5. The most recently offending toenail is off! Pulled it out yesterday. Ahhhhh, relief. The skin should close over soon. I could almost wear boots again, walk seriously but it’s now not going to happen this trip.

I’m tied into a travel week. And I need to get feet sandal-ready for a trip to Cambodia, coming up soon.