Travelling Around Central Spain – Part 1V Salamanca & Segovia

Salamanca in northwest Spain is famous for its ornate sandstone architecture, its university, the religious buildings and the beautiful expanse of the Plaza Mayor. I love the river there too and the old bridge.

Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

This was our second day in Salamanca and what a great place to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We knew we’d be heading to the wonderful Plaza Mayor square for lunch but before that we were looking forward to visiting the famous Art Nouveau & Art Deco Museum. We’d struck it lucky as on a Thursday, which it was, admission is free. I would have loved to have taken lots of pictures in there but it wasn’t allowed. The small bronze and marble scuptures are superb as are the many glass pieces intricately worked also the furniture and textiles. There’s a large collection of porcelain dolls, many of which were earily lifelike, not to my taste but superbly well made. This is one of the best collections of Art Deco and Art Nouveau muesums we’ve visited, so many pieces I would love to have in our little cottage!

Café de Lis in the museum.

Glad to say there was no restriction on taking pictures of the pieces in the cafe which needless to say were copies.

I don’t care if she’s not original, I’d still take her home.
The birthday Boy. The stained glass is modern but superb.

I also bought a few postcards in the shop but resisted the temptation to buy anything else. Copies or not of pieces in the museum, …they were all very expensive! Afterwards we walked into the city and headed for the beautiful square of Plaza Mayor surely one of the most beautiful squares in Spain?

On the lhs, an example of inscriptions seen on the walls in the city. On the rhs a prime example of the stunning, ornate, sandstone architecture.

Walking along the streets of this fine city is an absolute joy. I love the architecture and the colours of the buildings. Quite a few have inscriptions on the walls which are called vitores. Centuries ago they were written in bulls blood and I suppose due to the moderate climate in this area, the writing is still clear to see. There can’t be many better places to have lunch on your birthday than sitting at at one of the cafes in Plaza Mayor watching the world go by and enjoying a glass or two of wine.

An aperitif before our meal to celebrate my man’s birthday.

It wasn’t easy to drag ourselves away from the square but we had more sightseeing to do. First of all we headed for the University, All group tours include a stop at the entrance which is a wonderfully carved facade with a hidden frog in a small square. Everyone is of course chlallenged to find it. I waited a while to get a clear shot of the entrance but it didn’t happen, however the picture on the left gives a good idea of the intricate carvings. Thankfully the courtyard was very quiet. We didn’t go into the University which is the oldest in Europe as we were in need of a siesta.

The Plaza at the entrance to the Universidad Pontifica and the Courtyard at the University.

If the streets of Salamanca during the day are full of things to do and see, it’s a joy at night to wander along and admire the Gothic and Baroque architecture of some of the landmark buildings. By the evening too, the tour buses have left.

The Cathedral.
Two of the Romamesque style towers of the Cathedral.
Plaza Mayor – panoramic style.

It was our final evening in Salamanca so we couldn’t resist having one last look at Plaza Mayor.

We left Hospedium Hotel Casino which had been a perfect place to stay with its stunning views of the River Tormes. Next stop and the final one of this holiday, Segovia.

One of the many old bridges spanning the River Tormes, Salamanca.

Segovia is a World Heritage City in central Spain and like Toledo, the oldest part was built around and atop of a hillside with narrow streets which wind upwards towards the magnificent cathedral. It’s one of the highest cities in Spain. Finding our hotel wasn’t easy especially navigating through the medieval quarter but after asking a couple of locals we arrived outside Hotel Don Felipe. A quick dash in to get the directions for the hotel garage which was built inside the rock. Not easy to park in there but the lift took us straight into the hotel. Three flights of stairs later and we had a stunning view of the Alcazar from our balacony.

The Alcazar dating back to the 12th century and part of the city wall.

With only a short time to look around the city we started at the famous aqueduct. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman aqueducts in the world and measures 800 metres. It really is impressive and even more so when you climb up the Postigo steps at the side to look along it. No mortar was used in its construction with each block placed on top of the other. These Romans knew what they were doing. The grooves you can see at the side of the higher blocks were made by dragging and raising the blocks into position.

The Aquaduct in the centre of Segovia.

Leaving that area we walked through part of the Jewish quarter with very narrow streets and tall buildings. Some of the courtyards in this area are apparently well worth visiting but we didn’t have time. We decided to visit the Cathedral instead of the main Synagogue.

The Cathedral of Segovia
Incredibly tall pillars and stunning fan vaulted ceiling in the main nave with a superb cloister dating back to the 16th century.

This Gothic Cathedral dominates the town and was built between 1525 and 1577. The height of the pillars is immense and the cloisters are superb. Included in the ticket price of £6.17 is acess to the Bell Tower which gives you a 360 degree view over the city.

Part of the city with the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains.

One last visit we managed to squeeze in that afternoon was to The Alcazar Fortress. We found the interior quite disappointing unless you’re keen on armoury but the narrow climb up to the tower was worth it – great views.

The entrance to The Alcazar.

Apparently the Disney Corporation used the castle as the design for the film ‘Cinderella’. It does have a fairytale look about it.

It shows just how close the castle is to the edge of the city. Lots of fields.

After our visit we went back to our hotel for a well-earned rest. We’d booked a restaurant Asador David Guijarro for our last meal of the holiday which meant a walk through the city streets. What we hadn’t expected was coming across a procession marking the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week). It seemed like all the townspeople were involved. It certainly lasted quite a while so we were a litle delayed getting to the restaurant.

Quite a procession with an array of costumes, bands and religious groups.

Walking back through the quiet streets of Segovia was great. We’d had a good meal and now we were looking forward to going home. We’d had a great time touring central Spain. It’s difficult to say which city and village we’d enjoyed the most but probably Salamanca was our favourite city I hope all these Blogs have inspired you to go and visit, so much to see and do.

The quiet streets of night time Segovia.
A fairytale castle and a great view from our hotel balcony.

Travelling around Central Spain Part III -Salamanca

Salamanca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and quite rightly so, it’s a beautiful city. We parked (for free) the other side of the River Tormes and walked across one of the main bridges into the heart of the city. And what a view! Ahead were the magnificent Cathedrals. There are two of them, joined together, but more about that later. Looking to our left we could see the Salamanca Roman Bridge with its twenty-six arches of which fifteen date from Roman times. All this and we hadn’t got into the city yet!

The Roman Bridge of Salamanca crossing the River Tormes and the city’s two cathedrals … Catedral Vieja de Santa Maria and Catedral Nueva.

Following the main route into Salamanca is one of the most interesting introductions to a city you could have. We skirted past the entrance to the famous Art Deco museum which was on our list to visit the next day. I took a picture of two of the imposing doors to the Old Cathedral as we passed plus one of Francisco de Salinas, who was a music theorist and organist. Hope he liked pigeons as they obviously like to perch on his statue.

Wonderfully carved doors guarding the entrance to the North and South transepts of the new Cathedral and a statue of Fransisco de Salinas musician and humanist.

We peeked into a few shops along the pedestrianised streets of Tor and Zamora. I couldn’t resist photographing this one with all the hams and sausages hanging up. These are a speciality of the region.

Quite a selection of cured hams and sausages.

We didn’t linger long walking through the main shopping area although we did stop to admire the tall buildings which line either side of the street. It was getting on for lunchtime and we were aiming for the magnificent Plaza Mayor, one of the grandest and most imposing squares in all of Europe. The square has been an important meeting place for the citizens and students of Salamanca for centuries. This is where you go to enjoy a coffee, a wine, meet a friend or take a stroll around the square passing all of its 88 arches.

Plaza Mayor

So many cafes to choose from, it had to be one in the sunniets corner. We sat and had a glass of wine, watched the people go by, had another glass of wine and then a bite to eat – just perfect. Having re-charged our batteries it was time to head off to visit Salamanca’s Cathedrals

I don’t know if this is unique but there can’t be many cities who can boast two Cathedrals joined together. One dates back to the 12th & 13th centuries whilst the ‘new’ one was started in the 16th century. The old cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria de la Sede is built in the Romanesque style and as well as many beautiful features it’s best known for the magnificent altarpiece of the main chapel dating from the 1440’s. We are kicking ourselves now for not actually going into either cathedral as we decided to do the rooftop tour linking the two and looking down onto the buildings. As you walk up there is a window you can peer through to see the old Cathedral but that’s as near as we got. I did get a picture with my 75-300 lens of the wonderful altarpiece at the end of the Main Chapel.

View of the Main Chapel and altarpiece in the Old Cathedral.

Carrying on, the views from the top of the old Cathedral are well worth the climb including being almost level with one of the many pairs of nesting storks you see at the top of buildings in Salamanca.

That’s what you call a bird’s nest!

A word of warning! If you are going up to the bell tower, avoid being in there late morning if you can. These are serious bells, many sets of them. We were there when they rang out the half-hour and take it from me …they are deafening.

One of the four sets of bells in the tower of the new Cathedral.

Once you come out at the top you walk along between the two cathedrals which is quite something along with the great views of the city not to mention the architecture of both buildings. The construction of the New Cathedral began in 1513 which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin and again I’m sorry we didn’t go inside.

The walkway between the Old Cathedral and the New Cathedral.

At the end of the walkway we followed a passageway into the New Cathedral which gives you a bird’s-eye view of one of the three naves and some of the beautiful stained glass windows of which there are apparently almost a hundred. This is a huge Cathedral with eighteen chapels all elaborately decorated, a high and low choir and a huge Sacristy comprising several rooms.

One of the three naves in the New Cathedral.

Once outside we walked back to our hotel Casino Del Tormes which is right by the Tormes river and a short walk from the centre of the city. We were impressed with the hotel as it was very reasonably priced, the breakfast was excellent with lots of choice, it’s in a quiet area of the city near the iconic Roman Bridge and our room had a lovely view of the river.

That evening we headed backto the Plaza Mayor before finding somewhere for dinner. At nightime the city takes on a different persona. All the magnificent architecture lit up and the place alive, not just with tourists but local people drawn as they have been for centuries to the square.

Stunning by day …and night.
Baroque architecture, amazing detail.

I could have taken lots of pictures as the buildings looked wonderful all lit up. The one below is an attempt to show the expanse of Salamanca’s famous Plaza Mayor.

Plaza Mayor (panoramic shot taken on my mobile phone).

Walking back to the hotel after an OK meal but nothing special we had to smile at the sign outside what looked like a pretty ordinary small convenience store. Clearly they catered for all needs!

Get your snacks and other ‘delights’ here …

The next day we visited the Art Deco Museum. A good day to choose as on a Thursday it’s free admission. I took lots of pictures, so as I think this Blog is long enough, I’ll write a second one on the museum. I hope there’s enough in this one to show how impressed we were with the city of Salamanca.