Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Break Part II: Salamanca

Salamanca is about 4 hours south west of Algorta. 14 years have passed since my last visit. Prior to that I studied there one summer in college and I had visited in 1985 as well. While much of the college town remains the same, Salamanca as a city has really grown. 

We started with a tour of the city. Since we were staying in Barrio La Vega which is on the other side of Rio Tormes, we had about a 10 minute walk in towards the center of town. We took some pictures of the views as we approached. 

Once across the bridge, we headed directly into the monument zone. The first on the list was the Catedral Nueva, which by US standards isn't all that new seeing as it was built between the 16th & 18th century.

You may have noticed the carving on the cathedral of an astronaut, which of course didn't exist when the cathedral was built. My understanding is that relatively recently they needed to clean up the outside of the building where some of the intricate carvings had eroded. They apparently did this with a bit of creative license to "modernize" the outside.

Not far from the cathedral is the Patio de las Escuelas and the historical university building with its famous frog carving.

From there we headed towards the center of town. Maia happened to notice some Jewish stars on some buildings which also had some moorish influences. That sent me on a mission to find out a bit about the presence of Jews in Salamanca. As it turns out what Maia had discovered had no real meaning other than the builder liked that architecture. However there is some history, although most remnants of it are completely gone at this point.

The Plaza Mayor is one of the most beautiful central plazas in all of Spain. If you have the opportunity to visit, stop in at Meson de Cervantes, another favorite study spot for me. While you can sit outside, I recommend going in and checking out the photos on the walls. It shows some of the history of the plaza from the times when cars were allowed, and how it has transformed into the meeting place that it is today. Once you are done in the plaza, across the street is a large indoor market which is a great place for picking up fresh fruit and vegetables.

The park pictured is Parque La Alamedilla. I remember studying there as an alternative to la Plaza Mayor as it tends to be a bit quieter. There is a bar/cafe in the park, where I had the best granizados de limón, basically a lemon slushy. Unfortunately we were told this is a seasonal drink that is only available in the summer. We'll have to go back some time for that...

Just outside of Salamanca there are many options for day excursions. We went with our friends, MaLuz, Sara, and Lola to La Peña de Francia and La Alberca. We drove up the mountain and stopped along the way to take in the views before reaching the top. It was quite cold up there and a rather gloomy day but we got some great pictures anyway.

At the top was a beautiful old monastery.

After having a drink to warm us up a bit we headed back down to an adorable little town called La Alberca. There we found a great place for lunch and took a tour around the city before heading back to Salamanca.

The sights were stunning and the company was great. Yet another successful adventure.

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