Monday, 20 November 2017

Hot and Cold in Salamanca.

Excitingly, the previous post ended with a real 'cliff-hanger: "Would the little bar beside the University which did a three tapas for €10 deal still be there?" On a positive note the bar 'La Andaluz, low cost' was indeed still there, however, it was closed. The reason was less than obvious - because it was Monday, or off-season maybe it only opens in the evenings, or the owners were on holiday? Anyway, that was that, our quest to sample the entire menu had been stymied. 

So, plan B. At the other end of the same street is a Valor café. Spain's answer to Lindt has been one of the discoveries of the trip. On the basis that it's life's small pleasures that are the best antidote to global craziness, we have taken to having one or two squares of the most expensive chocolate we can find with our after lunch coffees. Lindt is our preferred small pleasure. However, we now believe that Valor chocolate 'produced in Valencia since 1881' can give Messrs Lindt & Sprüngli a run for their money. Indeed, in one crucial aspects the brand trumps its Swiss rival by producing a liquid version of its delicious dark chocolate and serving up this dark elixir in its cafés with churros. We have resisted chocolate and churros up until now on medical grounds, but we figure that world is now so crazy that any self indulgence is  a psychological imperative simply to maintain a modicum of sanity. So lunch consisted of Valor hot chocolate and churros - it was great.

Other than that we revisited old haunts mainly. The city felt even more like Oxford in Iberia than the first time we were here. So, a few photos with comments, just for the record.

Noble towers, hallowed scholarly courtyards, magnificent baroque domes glimpsed down narrow streets - very Oxford...

A languid river meandering through water meadows. an ancient bridge with the towers of the venerable university beyond... very Oxford. Salamanca University was founded about a decade later than Oxford - both date from around the beginning of the 13th Century. Salamanca's beautiful old bridge is much older. It was built by the Romans.

However Salamanca is much more than a university city, it has real vibrancy and civic pride - the central square is perhaps Spains's most beautiful - I cannot recall any space more convivial and brimming with energy - Siena's Campo maybe. Today a local school - St Cecelia's - was celebrating its 50th anniversary in the square. The entire school had occupied the space and were having a great time singing silly songs. What you sensed, among staff and students was an assumed belonging, a communal spirit and a shared ebullience. Just being there with them lifted your spirits and made you smile.

Through this arch  is the city's central market. It's not quite on the same scale as Valencia's, nevertheless it places the supply of fresh produce right at the heart of the municipality. In the end, which has done more for the development of human culture - the 'plateresque' or the chorizo?

Tour group 2B were a bunch of Americans being frog-marched around  the sites - scheduled for 12:30pm was a visit to the market bar for a bocadillo and a glass of vino tinto.

We stayed at the same place as before too, the ACSI site in the grounds of Hotel Regio in Santa Marta de Tormes The place is about 4kms from the centre but there is an hourly bus service right from the hotel car park. The site itself is somewhat elderly and a bit worse for wear, but it is serviceable.

Hotel Regio - not quite so utilitarian inside as its exterior suggests
The campsite behind it is as utilitarian as it looks.
One of its redeeming features - an hourly bus service to the city centre.
One challenge has been the weather. After weeks of a very summery autumn a winter chill had set with a vengeance. It is still clear and sunny, so much so in fact that I have been receiving newsfeeds on my phone about Spain's on-going drought. The nation's 'embalse' are at 37% capacity, a few wet weeks are needed desperately. No rain is forecast, what has changed are the night-time temperatures. In the afternoon it is still very pleasant, mid-twenties in sheltered spots - hot by British standards. That is due to the strength of the sun, in the shade it can be quite chilly. This is an odd experience because you end up feeling hot and cold simultaneously. 

In the bleak mid-winter....
The problem is after dusk, the temperature plummets under clear skies. This morning it was -3.7° outside. The van heating is very efficient, within 20 minutes it reached 20° in the van. However, we are not fully winterised, it is draughty and without double flooring  bottom bits ends up colder than top bits. In the morning using the campsite showers in sub zero temperatures takes pluck. Neither of us are much good at being plucky, namby-pamby is more our style. 

A northern looking sunset

Just to add to our woes, with morning temperatures as low as - 4 degrees centigrade, it is not a good moment to discover the LPG cylinder has about 2 litres left. We have made a list of local suppliers...there are only two within a 50km radius.

The onset of more wintry weather in the south in late November is the main reason why we tend to abandon Maisy in a secure parking about now and fly home. However, there is good reason why we can't this year. We have to drive home because on 2nd February we head towards summer in New Zealand. With that in mind it makes a few chilly mornings a little easier to bear.

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