Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Bloggo Sud de la France-o Fall 2019 1: A Long and Bumpy Arrival.

Good morning from Strasbourg, in the lovely Alsace-Lorraine area of France, 13 September 2019.

As I write from my hotel room, the church bells of Strasbourg are ringing in 8 am...aahhh...

Aside: [The above photo I took on an earlier trip, the cathedral in the distance, the Barrage Vauban, defensive barriers and dam built in the late 17th century.]

It took a while to get here - quite a while. Probably not the most nightmarish travel-across-the-pond experience, but a very unpleasant one for me.

It began well enough. I arrived at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport (GSP) too early, as usual, but better that than too late, right? According to the departures board, my flight to the Charlotte NC airport (CLT) was "on time" but smartphone alerts and flight status updates courtesy American Airlines informed me that the flight incoming to GSP was late. Not terribly late, but enough to get me worried about connections. 

The reason? The air conditioning in the small jet that was on its way to take us to Charlotte was on the fritz. Uh-oh. So while that flight managed to get to GSP only a bit after our announced on-time take-off, we had to wait until the ground crews "cooled" the cabin. About 40 minutes. We were asked to pee before the flight, as the tiny, hot and probably stinky loo on the plane would be locked. Once aboard it was announced that we must keep the shades down on every window. 

We then waited on the tarmac even though there were no other flights scheduled only to hear a hilarious announcement from the cockpit: "We ARE number one for take-off, but are awaiting permission from the tower."  20 minutes more in the stifling tiny jet getting hotter by the second, and we were finally airborne.

Already a hot and sweaty mess I raced down CLT from the awful terminal F to terminal B (really one long terminal) just in time for boarding to begin on my flight to Frankfurt. Another announcement: due to some or other technical problem we were to return to the gate around 6 pm (more an hour) for a possible 7 pm take-off.

This delay, I realized, would make the train I was planning to take from Frankfurt to Strasbourg, almost impossible to catch.

Another announcement (my smartphone alerts signaled it too): passengers were now to proceed posthaste to terminal D where we were to depart at our original take-off time, aboard a fully booked Airbus 330. I love those jets, but I calculated, "A half hour for hundreds of passengers to dash two 'terminals' away, then board, taxi and take off?"

I was right to be concerned, because when we reached the new gate we were told (and could plainly see) that people were still getting off the jet that we were to board. So, an announcement: it would be 15-20 minutes before we could board. Those minutes turned into an hour, but boarding went smoothly...and then we waited again, because catering had not been loaded onto the jet, and baggage too needed to be transferred. Another hour passed aboard the jet. Finally after several explanations for delays, but no apologies, we took off, at just after 7 pm. God.

Good news! The transatlantic flight was smooth and easy. And while a nightmare, the delays were only slightly worse than many others I'd experienced getting around the US by plane. We were however quite late arriving in Frankfurt

Thanks to a fast slide through passport control, a quick "skyline" service from terminal two to terminal one and good signage I managed to find the airport train station. A very attentive, attractive young woman at the Deutsche Bahn desk put me on a train to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof almost instantly and I arrived in time, but only just, to catch my train. I was whisked into a first class car on a nice ICE and in about 2 hours would arrive at Offenburg, just across the border from Strasbourg. There a crummy little local would take me to my destination and to my hotel just across the street from the rail station - for a desperately needed sleep.

BUT ("but" again)! Due to my own fault - I can never sleep on transatlantic flights (I stare at movies I don't really want to watch while others snore) and was stupefyingly exhausted. I got to gleis (track) 3 and saw the destination listed - Strasbourg. I hopped on the train with 15 minutes to spare. Except that it departed 3 minutes after I sat! To my shock I was riding a train on its way BACK to Karlsruhe (one of the stops on my way down from Frankfurt) and who knows where beyond! I spoke to a conductor, got off in Karlsruhe, explained my sad tale to another attentive, attractive young woman at Deutsche Bahn. Her understanding and diligence got me aboard the next train back to Offenburg, where with 8 minutes to spare I could catch the next crummy local to Strasbourg. 

Except that (or "however"or "but" - running out of words of that kind) our train from Karlsruhe arrived at Offenburg 5 minutes late. This forced me and several others to sprint from track 1 to track 4, where we all stuffed ourselves into the rear of the closest car to us.

Inglorious journey from hell. I staggered into my hotel 29 sleepless hours after I had begun my journey in Greenville SC, looking so bedraggled and exhausted that the kind desk clerk at the hotel did not even ask me for my passport, instead sent me straight upstairs to my room, where I collapsed still dressed on my bed. A few hours later I dragged myself up and out for a twilight stroll and dinner in the wonderful city of Strasbourg. Below, two pics of the River Iss near sunset.

My destination was a square across the river.

I hardly needed a tram to take me there, but Strasbourg trams are cool, so...

Where I et:

What I et:

And ohhh I needed that:

Afterwards I returned to my hotel for a full night's sleep, and I slept very well indeed. However I am almost late (I never want to be late again!) to catch a train for my day trip to Colmar. 

More on that, and definitely in a more positive strain than this, in my next post! 


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Bloggo Iberico: Spring in Northern Spain 2019 1 - Segovia

In April 2019 I visited Northern Spain. My original intent was to designate it an Easter trip, at least early on in the visit to observe how Spain celebrates Holy Week and Easter Sunday. In part by accident, but also in part intentionally, the focus shifted. 

I flew into Madrid, the way began my two previous trips to Spain. Instead of spending several days there before moving on (2013) or spending one night in the city, largely to overcome jet-lag before hopping a fast train south (2017), I decided to catch a train to my first destination on the same day I landed. It was tiring. While still in the US I had booked a train that left hours after my flight was scheduled to arrive, because I was worried about delays. My instinct proved a good one, as the flight arrived a full hour and a half late. 

From Chamartin station, a view of skyscrapers in the modern part of Madrid

I caught the excellent and inexpensive (or because inexpensive) airport bus and got off before entering the center of the city, at Madrid's second rail station, Chamartin. Luckily I was able to get there shortly before my train pulled out, and in less than an hour I arrived at Segovia, where I would spend my first two nights.

From a distance a good view of the cathedral

It was a city I had visited before, in 2013, but only on an organized day tour from Madrid, which felt more than a little rushed. I fell in love with Segovia then, and was determined that I would give it at least one full day - so I did. 

Heading toward the old town, and the aqueduct, seen at the top, in the distance

My hotel in Segovia, the Infanta Isabel

Beer and tapas in the cosy cafe attached to the hotel

My hotel room was nearly ready when I arrived, and it was
My room, nothing fancy, but nice
suggested that I have a beer and bite in the attached bar. I was happy to, though I confess that the "cerveza" made me even more tired than I already was. Once in my room took only a few moments to freshen up and check my email, then though very sleepy, I set out to rediscover Segovia. It was a crisp, clear spring day, the air was fresh, so off I went.

Off the bedroom, an area to relax in

From the entrance to my hotel, a portion of the cathedral

City Hall, from the front of my hotel

I had booked a hotel on Plaza Mayor, opposite City Hall. At the far end of the plaza is a theatre and opposite that end the cathedral, a small part of which I could see from one of the windows in my room. 

The Juan Bravo Theatre, on the right,
on Plaza Mayor

Plaza Juan Bravo, with his statue at center

I walked down (it IS literally a downhill walk, but an easy grade, which of course makes the walk back up the hill not too difficult) towards the aqueduct, stopping at a square I find as pleasant as Plaza Mayor, named Plaza Juan Bravo, who saved the city centuries ago: Bravo! Good name for a hero, si?

Look at the photo above and the people walking at bottom. If you walk in the opposite direction you will soon come to the Roman Aqueduct.

From a small, mostly pedestrian street into the huge square that is home to the even larger aqueduct is something of a thrill, even if you've trod that same path before.

I had a lovely walk, but I really was jet-lagged, and headed back to the hotel, where I had a few more cervezas before drifting off into a deep sleep.

Next morning, feeling much refreshed, I began to explore Segovia, relishing the chance to have a full day in which to do so.

A brief aside: I have already written about the major sights of Segovia, its cathedral, its Alcazar and above all (literally!) the beautiful aqueduct. While I visited all of them on this trip, I did not go inside the cathedral or the Alcazar. If you'd like to read more about each all you have to do is look to the right of this page, click on the Archive and you'll find the post on my 2013 organized day tour to Segovia and Avila. Rather than dwell on them, I'll try, mostly through photos, to let you in on some of the less-known charms of the city. 

I began by re-visiting the aqueduct. While no one is allowed to walk on it - dangerous to say the least - a bit more than 100 steps up will get you to its upper level - interesting view, and one that the rushed organized tour in 2013 did not allow time for.

As I strolled I saw a building that very much interested me, the Alhondiga (below), an old granary, very Moorish in style, with a poster for the Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions that I so wanted to see.

In fact I also found a sculpted figure of one of those who at one time marched in the processions (at left). The tall, pointed hat could often be seen in processions of old. I saw none in the processions I witnessed later in the trip, but any time I see a painting or a sculpture of such an austere figure with such a hat I must confess that at first at least I can think of just one thing: the Spanish Inquisition!

In fact the city features many public sculptures, varying from the secula this one is called El Favorito (the difficult to see title is in gray stone just below the Favorite's feet, easier to see the artist's name below that)

to the religious, such as this (below), which depicts San Juan de la Cruz (St John of the Cross).

Spotted on a walk that gradually took me to the vicinity of the Alcazar,

the above is a photo of the old Knights Templar church of Santa Cruz. My plan was to to trek out to it, but while with the zoom it doesn't seem too far off, I can tell you that I was a bit concerned - the amount of time it would take to get there and back, and whether or not I'd be able to make it back up to the city. I guess I'm not quite the trekkie I once was.

I saw it and other sights in a pretty if sere area below one side of the city walls.The neighborhood I was walking through seemed very posh, and many of the casas featured great views of that rough beauty.

Many tiny old roads wind through the city 

And while not all roads do, this one leads to the Alcazar, the last of the three top attractions (after the aqueduct and the cathedral.

Another look at the Alcazar, the much and fancifully renovated castle where once upon a time lived Isabella (of Ferdinand and...)

I stopped at this fairy tale castle (some say it inspired the castle in Disneyland) only briefly, then headed back towards the center along the walls opposite those next to the Alcazar

The first thing you might notice is that compared to the view from the walls adjacent to the Alcazar, this is a much more green area. 

Impossible to miss on this part of the walk is the view of the cathedral.

The above photo offers more proof that if the grass is not always greener, it certainly is on this side of Segovia.

The above photo offers one of the best views of the cathedral. It is called the Mirador del Museo de Segovia - below, the sign that tells you it's a very good view and the shadowy figure of the photographer (aka Dr Jack)

And if you wonder why the mirador is described as that of the city museum, when you turn away from that great view, this is what you see: The Museum of Segovia, built into the walls of the city

One hears much about the once thriving Jewish communities in Toledo and Cordoba. I had no idea there was a large enclave in Segovia as well.  

The first evidence of it, coming from the direction in which I walked, is the above plaque mapping out the Jewish cemetery, far below the city walls. Here is the path down to it. 

It lies at the edge of the Jewish quarter...well, ghetto. A reminder, when the Catholic monarchs reconquered the country, all the Jews were either forced to leave, to convert to Christianity, or burnt in the Inquisition.

Just past the cemetery and after walking through the above entrance to the city, more of the Jewish "barrio" becomes evident.

There is even a Sephardic cafe! 

Below, I think you might be able to read the cafe's special menu for Passover. If it is difficult, click on the photo and it should enlarge. It was too early for lunch or I would definitely eaten here. 

This old church in the Jewish quarter is well worth a visit,

because it was once the Jewish Synagogue. While there is some evidence of this heritage inside, the building has been almost completely converted into a Christian church. Here'a a look at its altar.

And from the altar to the back of the church

If you look at the far wall you may see some posters. They depict the history of synagogue/church (the quality of the photo is poor, but I include it as it might tempt some of the readers to visit):

One of my favorite views from a city with many lovely views is this one, of rooftops and far beyond, the mountains. 

A good place to end my few notes on this fine city. Salud!

Bloggo Iberico: Spring in Northern Spain 2019 2 - Salamanca and Valladolid

There are several reasons to visit Salamanca. It is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe and a grand cathedral. Two cathedrals 

actually, as the new one was grafted onto the old. In order to visit the old cathedral you have to walk through the new. In addition you can visit what some have described as one of the most pleasant main squares in Spain - Plaza Mayor. Last but not least, there is a well preserved ancient Roman bridge (above) over the river Tormes, for tourists a pleasant place to stroll and to get good views of the cathedral, for locals a pleasant section of a jogging and cycling path. 

My hotel is very near the Roman bridge. It is not as well located as I might have hoped, and a bit of a climb up to the old town proper. But I managed to hike it several times during my stay, and was rewarded by closer views of the cathedral(s). 

On my first day I checked into my hotel but discovered that my room was not yet ready. So I left it to get a look at the city proper. On my way I passed a curious statue, which I later discovered

was of Lazarillo de Tormes. Lazarillo is the diminutive for Lazaro, a much beloved author about whom very little is known. The statue depicts a very young Lazarillo leading the old blind master to whom he was apprenticed. Later he left on a series of travels during which he worked for several other masters, learning their crafts and becoming crafty as he roams around. In fact he becomes a rather roguish roamer and is said to be the prototype for the lead character in the picaresque novel.

Another statue seems to guard the city end of the Roman Bridge see photo below). A bull that lost his head...arse toward the city? I was not able to find all that much about this bull, except for one source that claimed it was presumably pre- Roman and is mentioned in relation to Lazarillo. Another says that it is the symbol of the city, and that when the Romans conquered the city broke off its head and threw it into the river. Last and least the claim is made that the bull guarded the city. Choose for yourself, or choose none of the above...

Across a rather busy road something else caught my eye, something I remained curious about until my last day in the city. As a theatre afficionado I will keep you in suspense:

On my way up the winding hill to the city I got my first look at the cathedral, a mere tease of what was to come.

As you see, there are only partial views to be had of the gigantic ediface.  

The main entrance to the New Cathedral (above) boasts a stunning ornate facade, intricately carved in what is called the Plateresque style. "Plata" is Spanish for silver, so think "in the style of a silversmith" if you like. Some critics opine that Salamanca offers the finest work in the Plateresque style. Below is a closer look at the entrance

I decided to wait for the following day to see the inside of the cathedral, and headed past it and the very nice square on which it sits (pictured below from the cathedral looking towards the old town center:

And on that square some lovely spring gardens (just off to the left of the photo above):

I easily made my way from the Cathedral to the Plaza Mayor, because, while it is possible to turn off it I simply followed the
same road. This turned into a busy street filled with shops and eateries, 

at the end of which was one of the entrances to the plaza. 

A very large and imposing plaza it is! 

Noted for its lack of a central statue of a king on horseback (a blessed relief if you ask me) and its elegant town hall this place has been called the finest in Spain. While I confess that I wouldn't quite agree with that assessment, it is a very pleasant place to eat, drink and even be merry.

The above photo was taken from one side of the plaza to the other. Not to be glib but, "Look ma, no equestrian statue!"

Below is a good look at the facade of the Town Hall

A wide arcade enwraps the entire plaza

And in addition to shops, cafes and restaurants abound - where you see several large umbrellas pressed together is a place to eat. 

In the spandrels of the eighty-eight archways along the plaza there are bas-relief ovals of kings and queens and the nobility, but also of heroes, soldiers and artists. For example one of them is of Cervantes - but please don't ask me to point it out. With all the arches in this plaza I'd never find it! After years of controversy, one of the busts was finally taken away in 2017. That of Franco, Spain's former fascist dictator.

As you look at the photo with the ovals, above, note that the pictured cafe tables belong to the Cafe Novelty, the oldest (1905) and most venerable cafe in Salamanca. It is a "literary" cafe, and is habituated by artists and writers. 

At each corner on the Plaza Mayor there are elegant entrance/exits. This is one of them:

After I had a good look around the plaza I found a restaurant just off it that seemed inviting, the Restaurant Musicale

And while the music was not quite what I'd hoped, the food was tasty enough. I had Bacalao, or cod, with ratatouille. The fish was better than the sauce.

I walked off lunch long the same shopping street I'd come in on, which now featured street entertainers as well as cafes and shops, one of them I loved. He plays a stringed instrument while working a puppet - of himself? - in a mini stage set. The kids watching are mesmerized (look at the little girl on the left), and whenever anyone puts a coin or two into his hat, he also makes the little white dog bark gratefully for it.

 Just down the street, at what I'd call the other end of the scale, altogether darker. In front of a building in severe need of restoration, this fellow appears to be crucified! 

Ah well, it IS Semana Santa - Holy Week, right? He's very good at it...ah well, maybe come Sunday he'll be resurrected.

In that hope I returned to my hotel, the Casino del Tormes. 

My room was ready - but what a room! At first glance it seemed fine.

until I discovered that if I wanted to open my curtains or look out of my window I would have stand tiptoe on a chair! 

The window out of which one cannot see.

The only other window was in the bathroom, and I had to stand on the toilet to see out of that one as well. At least I could make out the courtyard of the hotel, which appeared to house a restaurant. However, when I inquired at the desk I discovered that it was no longer open. The tables and chairs must have been kept to add brightness to an otherwise dull area!

The woman at the desk told me that there was a casino adjacent, but that the hotel had nothing to do with it. She suggested that there might be food and drink to be had there, but that she wasn't sure. I  almost looked in, but I wasn't in Salamanca to go to a casino - particularly during Holy Week. I decided that I wasn't all that hungry (or had I lost my appetite?), decided I didn't want to climb the hill to the old town again, and returned to my room.

Aside: I always check and/or other travel websites, for reviews and locations on maps etc. This hotel was highly rated, for location (?!) and for its rooms (!?). 

Confession: (seems a good idea on Holy Week): I had at first booked a hotel on the Plaza Mayor, but as this one was given higher ratings I canceled the earlier reservation and booked this place instead. Ah well...

Moral: Think twice before you book the Casino del Tormes!

And so ended my first day in Salamanca.

Next morning I mounted the hill once more, very much looking forward to touring the inside of the cathedral, and to have a look around the oldest university in Spain. The cathedral's main altar is surprisingly simple compared to other Spanish cathedrals, 

but not to worry, startlingly ornate side altars more than make up for the simplicity of the main:

The organ pipes were also impressive:

But I must tell you, my very favorite part of the cathedral was outside at its northern entrance. The photo below, of the wall just to the left of that entrance, offers a closer look at all the detailed carvings. But there is one anomaly.

And this woman, one of the beggars that ply their trade in front of almost any church is Spain (or much of Europe for that matter), is more than happy to point the anomaly out, for a few pieces of silver.

If you look very carefully among the maze of astronaut! seemingly entangled in vines. A miracle? Evidence of aliens from another planet? Or a prank? 

In the 1990s the cathedral underwent considerable restoration. One of the craftsmen, very likely bored with the tedium of his work, decided to add a little "joke," difficult to see but evident among the rest of the intricate work. And so it is that the cathedral of Salamanca is home to a spaceman!

The story goes that the good citizens of Salamanca hated the astronaut at first but that they simply shrug and say, "Why not? He is the closest person to God."

Literally across the street from the cathedral is the university, though to find its main entrance you have to go up a few streets, turn left, and take another left via a parallel street until you dome upon it. It is worth the detour even if you don't intend to see the inside of the ancient school, for over its entrance are carvings at least as intricately worked as those on the cathedral.

A closer look shows an even more complex Plateresque facade than that on the cathedral:

Across a tiny street from is a courtyard

The sculpture in the distance above and close up below is of Fray (Father) Luis de Leon, first a student of Canon Law beginning in 1541, later one of the school's most distinguished professors, awarded the prestigious Thomas Aquinas chair in theology in 1561. He was a poet and mystic as well. Two of his fellow professors betrayed him to the Inquisition and he was sent to Valladolid and imprisoned there in 1572. Pardoned and released in 1576, he returned to the university, where he famously began his first lecture with the words, "As we were saying yesterday..."

This university is Spain's oldest, founded in 1218, and one of the oldest in Europe. While it has been eclipsed academically by others, parts of it at least are more than worth the 
The Unamuno Lecture Hall
modest entrance fee. There are lecture halls named for famous faculty, including one titled Luis de Leon. Another is named for a more recent luminary, Miguel de Unamuno, who was born in 1864, and who died in 1936 while placed under house arrest by Fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Between the two dates he was a prolific writer (essays, fiction, drama and poetry, all in the modernist mode. He was also appointed Rector of Salamanca University and served two terms, the first from 1900 to 1924, the second from 1930 to 1936. The six years in between terms he spent in exile, having been removed from the university by another Spanish dictator General Miguel Primo de Rivera. When he returned to the university, in his first lecture he echoed the words of Leon: "As we were saying yesterday..."

The university chapel is impressive:

And the old library is a beauty, though it can be seen only in its doorway, walls of glass holding back the tourists (rightly so). Looking to the right:

and to the left:

Even if you don't pay tour the interior of the university, look for a hidden gem in one of its courtyards, the buildings for international students.

In one corner is a room that holds the Cielo de Salamanca, (Sky of Salamanca, by the 15th century artist Fernando Gallego. Step in, and especially if it's a bright sunny day such as I had, wait a few minutes for your eyes to become accustomed, then look straight ahead and see this:

constellations, stars and figures of the zodiac. It once graced the ceiling of the old library, but was restored in the 1950s and moved to this little nook. Don't miss it!

In another courtyard is a sequoia from the Americas, representing a long-lasting dedication to learning.

I had a lovely time at the university, after which I walked towards the Plaza Mayor, looking forward to lunch! Along the way I passed another sight or two, relating to Salamanca as a stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. One way to identify a city that welcomes those on the pilgrimage is a scallop shell.

A statue of Francisco Salinas, a blind musicologist who taught at the university in the 16th century, is fronted by a square that features three or possibly four very large shells, though you'll have to trust me on the shells, as I seem to have lost the photo that includes them:

And a large late 15th century - early 16th century house not far away is called the Casa de las Conchas, named for the 300 shells on its facade. 

As I moved closer to the Plaza Mayor another statue caught my eye

of Remigio Gonzalez Martin, a 20th century poet known by the pen name Adares, here in the Plaza del Corillo where he edited and sold his books. A pleasant encounter!

I continued my walk in search of lunch, and on the main shopping and eating street in the old town, very close to the Plaza Mayor, I found my eatery! 

Called the Meson de Conchas, its outdoor menu tempted me, as it was varied and very reasonable. Included in the 15 Euros not just the three courses of food, but a generous glass of wine (or beer or sangria) and a water thrown in.

so I sat down, as usual one of the first to do so, but within its opening hours. There was one couple already there, so I didn't feel too terribly conspicuous, and as I ate and drank more and more customers arrived. And the food was very tasty indeed. an asparagus salad to start (5th from the bottom of the Primeros Platos), 

then perhaps the best salmon I had during the entire trip (last entry under Segundos). As happened more than once on this trip, the two courses stuffed me to the point that I had no room for dessert. Still, a very good deal for very good food. 

Then I walked off lunch, in no rush, spending much of the rest of the afternoon just looking around. One sight impossible to miss is the cathedral...well, small parts of it. Some of the university is literally in its shadow, 

and occasionally I'd look up there it was - part of it. A beautiful building and a great pleasure from almost any angle.

And having walked almost too long, almost too far, I decided it was time to return to my strange little hotel room, thus ending my second day.

On my last day in Salamanca I re-visited briefly the area around the university, and also the Plaza Mayor, then headed not too far afield to what I take to be the second largest church in the city, San Esteban, full title Convento de San Esteban. This Dominican monastery was begun in the 16th century. but it was a long time in finishing, which explain the partly Gothic, partly Baroque architecture. The Dominicans arrived in Salamanca in the early 13th century, but their original monastery was demolished. It was in the earlier monastery that Christopher Columbus stayed as he debated the local geographers about his idea of sailing west to reach the Indies.

It was almost impossible for me to get a good photo of the exterior, but the interior was more accessible. The beautiful main altar above features a reredos (screen or other decoration behind the altar) was designed byJose de Churriguera. It is best viewed in my opinion from the choir. 

The choir is located on the upper level and is very large, dominated by this fresco by Antonio Palomino, on the subject "The Triumph of the Church." Clearly a work of the counter-reformation. 

Having had my fill of the interior I strolled the main cloister, known as the Cloister of Kings.

The Cloister itself is a beauty, but what most caught my attention is the double arch at its upper right. A closer look reveals a huge bird's nest - it it is occupied!

Viewed even closer, the inhabitant is a stork! They seem to be fond of Salamanca, and nests, which I understand can weigh as much as 650 pounds (!) can be found throughout the city. For their part the citizens view the storks with pride, and as good luck symbols for the city.

The city of Salamanca does not have an overabundance of museums, but I saved for last one that I really wanted to see. 
Located part of the way up the hill I climbed each day to get to the old town, it is a modernist mansion (late 1800s) named the Casa Lis for its original owner, but which, after a ragged history for the better part of a century, was saved by the city in 1981, and turned into the Museo Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Below is the eye-popping central hall. No photos allowed, strictly enforced, so this is the placemat I bought to remember it by, now a small poster in my humble abode.

It's a small-ish, eclectic collection and a very pleasant diversion. The hour or so I spent there was an artistic delight. 

I cheated slightly when I saw no guards around, turning my back on the museum proper and snapping this pic of the window decor, and the city beyond. The bar, for your info, is just out of sight on the right. 

It was at that moment that I realized what the building I had looked up and wondered at on my first day in Salamanca, shortly after I left my hotel room to explore the city. I left you in suspense when I remarked on it and put a photo of it here, some distance away. Below is a closer shot:

If you look at the center of this you will see the exterior of the interior shot just above it. The outer walls of the museum!

Just one more mission remained. I walked back towards Plaza Mayor for the last time, stopping at a place I had meant to enter earlier. I knew that I had had enough touring, and that I would almost certainly not leave my hotel room until my departure the following morning, so I bought this:

The world's best bocadillo! Who am I to disagree?

It was a very short train ride from Salamanca to my next destination, Valladolid. I stayed there one night only, primarily because it offered a more convenient rail journey to Bilbao than had Salamanca. I also wanted to get a look at the place that was
capital of Spain from 1601 to 1606, the city where Ferdinand and Isabella were married, where Columbus died and where Cervantes was briefly imprisoned by the Inquisition. Also, despite good intentions I had not as yet seen any processions for Holy Week. I arrived at the end of that week, Easter Sunday, and was finally able to witness a procession, actually several. In fact I was almost engulfed by them.
My hotel was a short walk from the train station, along a broad, modern avenue across from which was a large park. It also led directly to the heart of the city, the old town. In the photo above, a view from my window.

At the end of the park was a large plaza with a lovely fountain, beyond which, in a former cavalry academy is now a museum - beautiful building,

and a statue of José Zorilla, for whom the plaza is named, native of Valladolid and author of the play Don Juan Tenorio, the man who loved almost every woman he saw...for a time.

From the plaza I easily found the way to the center:

It seemed that many others were headed in the same direction. The wide entry you see above leads to a warren of tiny streets, which were packed with people and processions. 

The group above, women mourning maybe, I never quite understood, but I saw at least two more such groups. 

All processions seemed headed to Plaza Mayor,

where there was an open area in front of the city hall (center in the photo above) which seemed to be a reviewing stand. The statue you can just see at the far right of the photo is of the city's founder and first lord, Pedro Anzurez (1065-1117). 

He was a soldier and a prolific builder in and around Valladolid, though his frontier district included Toledo and Madrid.

All the processions were solemn and slow-moving, some simply with drums, some with brass instruments, all having an identifying flag and crucifix. 

The going was so slow and increasingly crowded that I searched the Plaza for places to eat - several, but all were packed, So I left the square and set out in serious search of food. All I found were restaurants with no tables to spare, crowds, and several more processions. The most notable one was the only group that I saw that used a wagon to hoist aloft a statue of Christ the Redeemer, much like pageant wagons that dated back to Medieval Spain and Europe. In those old days short plays were presented on the so-called pageant wagons, either one after another in a town square or at several designated stops along the route of the procession. 

I really enjoyed seeing all of the parades, the one below obviously keeping it in the family.

The one just above contained the seeds of a drama. While this group was paused, a señora passed and the fellow with the big red flag seems to be checking her out. But the woman with the sceptre to his right looks like she caught him ogling!

Even with all of this adventure I became very tired and also hungry. Seeing that I'd have no chance to get a table anywhere near the center, I headed back to the neighborhood of my hotel, where I had seen several eateries. Unfortunately none of these was open yet. I had once again experienced a brief encounter with the late Spanish lunch. However, across the street at the edge of the park I found a place. 

There was only one young couple seated, already eating, in the large rather pretty dining room (above), but almost every table in the place was reserved. Easter Sunday, right? However one small table in a corner was available and of course I accepted it. I was lucky in my timing, as I was able to order before the expected crowd entered. Enter it did, large families, each with probably ten people at least, sat at long tables. I ordered a simple Caesar salad  with chicken and a glass of tasty wine and was glad to make my escape from all the celebratory diners, from kids to geriatrics.

I decided against trying to look around the old town again, as I was certain it was still quite crowded. Sorry to have missed it, but I strolled along the park and came upon Campo Grande, a very pretty park within a park. Pretty trees,

A modest but pleasant fountain,

and peacocks! I saw in a small triangular garden one walking, while several others were lying at rest. If you look close you can see them, most resting.

One or two were more than willing to show off

There was even one high up in a tree! 

It was an odd way to end my very short visit to Valladolid, but a pleasant surprise as well. 

Next morning I trained out to Basque country in general, Bilbao in particular, which turned out to be a real highlight of the trip. More on that in the next post.