Today was our first train trip. So far we’ve had car transfers between places which have all been fabulous as it meant that not only did somebody pick us up, help with our bags and drop us at the door, we also got to stop and see some places along the way… However we were also pretty excited about getting on the train. There is something about train travel that we both love. They’re comfortable, you can read or look out the window. You don’t have to worry about the traffic and they’re usually on time and next thing you know you’re in another city!
This journey had us leaving from Córdoba and travelling to Madrid, which was a fairly uneventful, but comfortable trip. We arrived at the main station in the south of Madrid, but then we had another train 2 hours later to take us to Salamanca which departed from the station in the north of Madrid. These stations are 4 Metro stops from each other, but that would’ve meant doing all of the following:
- finding the Metro
- carting our bags downstairs (I assume, we never found it… we never even looked)
- buying a ticket in Spanish
- getting off at the correct station
“Sure – that’s all doable!” I hear you saying to me while you aggressively shrug your shoulders in disbelief, but this trip is about the following travel slogans: “travel comfy”, “look after your mother” and “take it easy and watch out for wankers™️” That last one is not officially trademarked, but my Dad is working on it.
So….. we (and when I say ‘we’, I totally mean the fabulous Lyn Tyson – Travel Manager extraordinaire!) organised a transfer from the station in the south to the station in the north. We were picked up by a lovely man who spoke perfect English with a Russian accent and he very nicely pointed out landmarks and important buildings on our 20 minute drive.
Like this building that looks like a plug…
We sat and waited for the platform number our train would be leaving from and as the time of our departure loomed closer, you just knew that as soon as that number appeared there would be a mass rush to the gate.
I’ve not seen this before, but on each platform before you board the train there is an X-ray machine for your luggage that everybody has to put ALL bags through. This all happened in such a rush with people throwing their bags on top of other bags (we only had a window of about 4 minutes for everyone to board the train). There’s no way that the man looking at the X-ray screen could have seriously looked at all the bags properly, but we played along and made it to our carriage with plenty of time… it does make you wonder though why the X-ray part (which isn’t a bad idea) couldn’t have been done in the 30 minutes prior to the train leaving? Leaving Córdoba the same X-ray system happened, but we were allowed onto the track as soon as the previous train had departed, making it a much more civilised procedure.
You know that great feeling when you’re on a train or a plane or sitting in the back seat of a car and you can zone out with your headphones on, listening to music or a podcast or in my case an audio book and you get totally into it and then all of a sudden you arrive at your destination? The second part of the journey was two hours, but it just wasn’t long enough.
So now we find ourselves in Salamanca. Every single person we’ve spoken to since arriving in Portugal and Spain has told us how much they love Salamanca. A few of our guides who were not Spanish by birth came to Salamanca to study Spanish and they all said, “ohhh, Salamanca! You’re going to love it. It’s the most beautiful city in the whole of Spain.” So we were of course looking forward to getting here.
We purposely didn’t book any tours here because I thought we’d be all toured out at this stage and because the city is so small, it was going to be lovely to just wander around
We are staying in the old district again and our hotel – the Don Gregorio is lovely. This is our salon/foyer/lounge area.
And just outside and across the road is this… It’s the San Estaban Convent (Saint Stephen’s). This is where Christopher Columbus once stayed and it was also the headquarters for Napoleon’s troops during the Independence War. How’s that for a bit of name dropping?
We went for a little walk around town and we could immediately see why people love it here. Around every corner is a new marvellous view….
A Cathedral here….
A church tower there….
This is Casa de las Conchas – the House of the Shells. It’s covered in 300 scallop shells clinging to the outside. It used to be owned by a bloke who was the doctor for Queen Isobel and a member of the order of Santiago – who’s symbol is the scallop shell. He was clearly a dedicated member! The building is now the public library.
These are on the doors….. I felt right at home.
And this is just outside for photo ops…
We stopped for refreshments at a little cafe surrounded by all these amazing buildings, but with one of the most lacklustre attempts at a table centrepiece…
At the top of the old bell tower there is a stork nest…
And this was perfect for people watching…. I see nothing odd going on here. Honestly, it’s enough to give you whiplash!
Then through this gate is the Mayor Plaza – the main square which was built back in 1729 and was completed in 1755 (the year of the Lisbon earthquake!!! Coincidence or conspiracy?) There’s nothing written about the plaza being damaged in that quake though, so maybe just two big things that happened in that year…
The square is lined with cafes, restaurants, touristy shops, ice creameries, etc… with a huge open space in the middle. It was initially built for bull fighting and used as such until the mid 18th century. The shops and cafes probably came after that!
In the evening we went for a little walk down towards the river and passed this petrol station.
Then we were faced with this lovely sunset from the bridge over the river and from the other side – some lovely reflections.
We walked along the bank on the other side and walked back over the the next bridge – which was this one…. This bridge has been there for hundreds of years and has seen floods, wars and the introduction of cars. It’s been rebuilt a few times and is now pedestrian only.
On the way home we wandered through the maze of cathedrals and university buildings and found some lovely gardens…
There were quite a few people just hanging out in the gardens which overlook the river, including a group of teens who sat in a row on a bench all looking at their phones.
Thanks Salamanca – great first day!