We've actually been home for over a week, but catching up on work, sleep, and construction at home. But let me take you back to Spain for a while.
We were on our way home and pretty much rushed through these cities.
After visiting the Fluxus Museum, we are on the road to Ciudad Rodrigo, voted by some travel writers as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.
This is how they do it in the countryside: the Cerveza is one euro (about $1.38) and the tapas are free (fried potatos and tasty chunks of braised liver).
We were a little underwhelmed by Ciudad Rodrigo. It's a handsome enough town, but definitely suffers in comparison to Caceres, Salamanca and Segovia. Our hotel was fine, but located over the bar (a couple stories over) and the tobacco smoke was overbearing. We had to sleep with the windows open, and it was literally freezing outside. We had dinner at the hotel and it was by far the worst meal we had in Spain. We only had 2 bad meals during our visit to Spain and this was the worst. They seemed to try to make up with quantity what they lacked in quality and gave us masses of food which we could not eat.
The Spanish will no longer be able to smoke in public places after the New Year, and so everyone seemed to be lighting up and desperately puffing while they still could.
We drove out of the narrow, winding streets of Ciudad Rodrigo on the early side, and made our way to Salamanca. I love even the sound of this city; what a rhythm to its name. It is an old university town. The university was founded during the middle ages. The concept of universities was brought to us by the Moors, so I assumed that they may have founded it, but later found it was established by Alfonso IX of Leon in 1218.
For some reason, Salamanca was very easy to navigate in our car - very unusual for any city, especially an old city. We drove into the historic city (another UNESCO world heritage site) and easily found parking!
The Salamanca public library.
Salamanca is nicknamed La Ciudad Dorado, the golden city, because of the golden color of the sandstone used in its beautiful mostly Renaissance buildings.
Salamanca, I think near some university buildings. We had our other bad meal in Salamanca, but I think this was only because we hadn't done any research or gotten a good recommendation. I think a city this beautiful with so many university students has to have good food. We pretty much stopped here only for lunch, and for Don to see an old watch museum. As you can see, a gorgeous city.
Back on the road to Segovia. At this point in our trip, I decided to try to economize and stay in a regular, reasonably priced hotel, rather than a parador, which I was sorely tempted to book for our last night in Spain. Arrived at dusk; Segovia is another beautiful hill town or small city, built defensively.
On the way to Segovia.
Narrow, hairpin roads, stone buildings on each side. We knew the street name of our hotel, but had no map. "Why is that F**ing ***Bleep** on my tail?!" "Where does he think he's going?" Don can get a little excited driving under these somewhat challenging conditions. Squeezing our car thru these little wormhole-like streets at a faster pace than we would normally comfortably go (because the guy in back of us does seem to be in some kind of emergency), craning our necks looking for any sign of our hotel, trying to catch the names as the tiny street signs flashed by. "There's a parking place!" The first available parking place we had seen in this city.
Travel Divas were watching over us, as after frantically pulling into the space and allowing our gaze to focus, we noticed that straight ahead of us was another parking space with a sign that said (in Spanish) "Reserved for Hotel Don Felipe," which was our hotel. There was a police officer and a fashionably attired Spanish lady standing nearby. He spoke about as much English as we do Spanish, but she lived part of the year in NYC and helpfully translated. Neither of them had heard of our hotel, but there was no question that the sign said "Reserved for Hotel Don Felipe." It turned out that the street we were on, Calle Daoiz, was the street where our hotel was located.
My attempt to economize paid off as Hotel Don Felipe turned out to be a wonderful hotel. We could not stay in our parking space, so we took advantage of the hotel parking. This, we were told, was down the street, first left, then look for the hotel logo and turn left. Down a steep hill, through a large group of tourists, drove alongside a cliff, and there was the hotel logo with an open garage door. Again, the parking garage was cut into the cliff. Marisha thinks she saw this hotel featured in an architectural magazine.
After parking, we were directed to a rear door. There, strains of 007 again, we entered a small lobby which looked on to a series of caves. Obviously, this is where James Bond makes his escape. Also, there was an elevator, which took us right up to the hotel lobby.
We had about 45 minutes to see the Alcazar. Full disclosure: We did not get a good photo of the Alcazar; this was snatched from the web.
Plasterwork which typically covers the buildings in Segovia. Every building seems to have a different pattern. The Alcazar's entire exterior looks to be covered in this type of plasterwork.
Looking at the walled city of Segovia from the Alcazar at dusk.
Gazing up at the Tower of John II of Castile from a courtyard within the Alcazar. Again, the heavily Moorish influence throughout.
Armor of what I'm sure must have been a very handsome knight, although maybe an inch taller than I am.
Era and Don