Tag Archives: Salamanca

Salamanca (Again)

With about eight days of our holiday still ahead of us we decided to start heading up towards Spain’s north coast with the hope that we’d be able to enjoy a few days at the seaside before our return ferry from Bilbao.

Although it would mean crossing our earlier track we decided to return to Salamanca to visit the Museo de Historia de la Automocion de Salamanca, which we’d somehow managed to miss on our earlier visit – despite having cycled literally past its front door.  We stayed a night at a camperstop about 30km short of Salamanca at the tiny hamlet of Narros del Castilla which didn’t have much to recommend it other than some nice views and some huge falling-down walls which presumably meant that once upon a time it was a place of some significance.

Despite having a couple of MGs in its collection and not a Triumph to its name the museum was worth a visit, with a wide variety of marques on display, including a couple of Spanish makes that I’d never heard of.  A small worthless prize to anyone who can name three Spanish makes not including Seat (without using Google!).

No, not a Triumph – but nice just the same

From Salamanca we headed north again to Zamora, very nearly coming to grief on the way.  We were in a line of traffic plodding along nicely at about 50mph when the Stig’s Spanish cousin coming in the opposite direction decided to cross a solid white line to do some overtaking.  I think that I must have just had time to swerve slightly to the right before there was a massive, expensive-sounding bang – and he was gone.  I couldn’t stop immediately but pulled over about a mile down the road and was followed into a layby by a Spanish guy in a white van.  According to him, the other driver’s left-hand door mirror hit the side of our van, flew through the air and landed on his windscreen.  Fortunately the only damage to our van is a broken flue cover from the hot water heater.  If his car had been a couple of mm closer there would have been a long scrape down the side of our vehicle; a couple of inches further over and it would have been ’emotional’.

Salamanca, and not much else.

Having arrived at the campsite on Tuesday afternoon we decided to  treat Wednesday as a day off and did very little other than  have a general sort-out, enjoy a beer in the bar and get the bikes off the back of the van.  In doing so we noticed that Denise’s bike had a slow puncture, so the following day we set off into Salamanca (around five miles along an excellent cyclepath) stopping along the way at a local bike shop who kindly replaced the innertube for the princely sum of eight euros.

Salamanca is an ancient university town (a bit like Oxford without the traffic problems) and, despite having been well and truly hammered over the years in the course of various wars, boasts some beautiful architecture and a lovely ambiance – admittedly, wall-to-wall sunshine helps with the latter.  The cyclepath took us as far as the Roman Bridge over the River Tormes from where we walked up into the heart of the old city.

The Roman Bridge at Salamanca The Roman Bridge with the Cathedral in the background

Salamanca university buildingsAs with virtually all the Spanish cities we’ve visited over the years the cathedral is especially impressive/beautiful/spectacular (choose any similar adjective) and we got to discussing what Europe of the Middle Ages would have been like if all the wealth that was poured into the Church had been distributed more directly to the poor and needy.  Would the arts have developed in the same way?  Would wars have been so frequent and so destructive?  Answers on a postcard please – but don’t expect a response.

Salamanca CathedralAs we were leaving the old part of the city we spotted a sign outside a shop that obviously caters to all the needs of visiting tourists.  That’s Spanish enterprise for you!

Salamanca shop sign

Segovia to Salamanca

One of my ideas when we originally started (not) planning this trip was to visit the sites of some of the Peninsula War battles (Wellington’s campaign in the early 19th Century to throw Napoleon’s armies out of Portugal and Spain).  I’d recently read Mark Urban’s book ‘Rifles’, which follows the 95th Regiment of Foot through that period, and am currently part-way through Peter Snow’s ‘To War with Wellington’ which also covers the campaign.  As one of the major battles of the campaign it was obvious that Salamanca should be included in our visits.

Our route west from Segovia took us along the road from El Espina to Avila, which passes through some of the most open and sparsly populated countryside that Europe has to offer.  We’d caught glimpses of the area while watching ‘The English’ a TV series supposedly set in the US mid-west but actually filmed in this area of rolling grasslands and near-desert in the heart of Spain.  As it turned out the countryside wasn’t quite as desolate or ‘desert-like’ as I’d expected, but if you’re looking for the ‘great outdoors’ you couldn’t do much better that this.

The countryside between El Espina and Avila
The wide-open-spaces betwen El Espina and Avila

As we arrived in Avila we realised that we’d passed this way on our travels back in 2003, though on that occasion we only stopped long enough to take a couple of photos of the city walls which, having been ‘sympathetically restored’ a number of years ago, are distinctive and impressive  This time we lingered long enough to stroll though part of the old city and walk around the walls, which provide great views both of the city and the surrounding countryside.

City walls and cathedral of Avila
Avila city walls and cathedral

We arrived at the Don Quijote campsite on the  outskirts of Salamanca at around 3.30, which experience has taught us is about as late as you can leave your arrival at a campsite if it’s a) any good, and b) you haven’t booked in advance.  Just in time – we nabbed the last pitch with electricity just a few minutes before half the population of The Netherlands polled up in our wake.