The Notesfromspain Blog is quickly becoming my favorite. Here is a gem of a post which contains a list of Spanish ¨street phrases¨and a list of things to say if you don´t want to sound like a total tourist. I have to say, though, that I have been here for a month and I am yet to hear any of these. Then, again, my Spanish is pretty basic, so, when greeting people, for example, I have been getting by the with usual "Que tal".
Here is an interesting video critique produced by a British blogger and his Spanish wife, both living in Madrid. So, if you want what that pile of the latest "periodicos" in the JMU office has to offer you, watch on. His blog is at www.notesinspanish.com
Here is another idea for a fulfilling day trip from Salamanca--Valladolid. It is located a 1 hour and 20 minute train ride from Salamanca and is definitely worth the visit.
Before I went, I had my doubts. The two guidebooks about Spain that I own do not give this city of almost 400000 people enough credit. In fact, one of them even calls it "sprawling and industrialized." Visiting Valladolid was second on my list, after the small towns on Zamora and Ciudad Rodrigo, both of which get high marks in all the guidebooks that I have read. However, getting to both Zamora and Ciudad Rodrigo from Salamanca proved a bit tricky while the train ride to Valladolid was easy and cheap (19 euros roundtrip). I guess this is an example how a good transporation infrastructure can attract visitors to a place.
I cannot say that I expected Valladolid to be covered in smog and factory dirt, but I had my doubts after reading those less-than-stellar acounts in the guidebooks. Instead, what I found was a vibrant (even on a Sunday) city, with a large university, an unusual-looking cathedral, lots of beautiful churches and notable palaces, and, my two personal favorites, Casa de Cervantes and Casa Colon.
So, here are some highlights of my day in Valladolid.
- Casa de Cervantes. Cervantes lived here between 1601 and 1606. The best thing about this place for me was that lots of original furnishings in the house are still there. Plus, on Sundays, admission is free. On other days, it is 3 euros.
- Casa de Colon. Columbus died in this house. The museum features an impressive multimedia exposition about all of Columbus' voyages across the Atlantic. Admission fee is 2 euros and, infortunately, no photography allowed inside.
- Valladolid Cathedral. I am not an expert in Cathedral architecture, but the Valladolid Cathedral looked very different from the other Cathedral's I had seen in Spain. First of all, it was white as opposed to the sandstone yellow of the Salamanca and the rock-grey of the Avila ones. Secondly, it has a large, raised "patio" in front of the main entrance, with steep steps. I tools photos of the exterior, but a mass was going on inside, so I did not photograph the interior.
By way of a closing note, there was something tangibly different about Valladolid which set it apart from Salamanca. Salamanca is old beautiful, and is steeped in history. Its life seems to revolve around its historical monuments and the tourists who come to see them. In Valladolid, I got a sense that the historical monuments are much more parts of the fabric of life of a 21st century city.
To close, here are some photos of Valladolid. For full-size vdersions of these photos, head over to the image galleries.
La Plaza Mayor de Valladolid
El exterior de la Catedral de Valladolid
Los niños estan jugando a la puerta de La Catedral.
Not sure if you heard this Monday night (you had to, I think, if you were anywhere in Salamanca), but there were some very loud fireworks going on Monday night around here. In fact, they sounded more like explosions--nothing like the tame little firecrackers we are used to in the States on July 4th. The time was around 11pm, and, looking from my balcony, it seemed as thought the shooting was coming from the courtyard of a Catholic church and school nearby. Well, see and hear for yourself in the clip included here.
It was Monday night, mind you. The ability of the local people to stay up and party every night continues to amaze me. Of course, in the morning they don't look too fresh going to work and school, but, hey, there is always the next siesta which is only a few hours away... That gives them a chance to rest so they can party even harder at night. We were, of course, wondering what the ocassion for this celebration was. This morning, walking around town, wee saw some posters announcing the alumni reunion of the said Catholic school. Apparently, that was the reason for the party and for the very loud fireworks.