The second half of our trip to Castile began with a food find. We checked into our hotel behind Segovia's Mercado Central, put away a few things, then headed out to explore the neighborhood. We strolled around Plaza Mayor and off onto side streets, where we found an inviting sign outside a burger place: a beer and a hot dog for €1.50. Seriously?
Click on the image for a larger view on Flickr and more details.
Seriously. The beer was not one of those little glasses, a caña, that you usually get in tapas bars, but a big frosty mug. And while the hot dog was small, there were several varieties with toppings like garlic mayonnaise, bacon, red pepper sauce, or guacamole. We liked The Good Burger so much that we made it back every afternoon for our beer and hot dog.
Toledo is touristy, Ávila is quaint and provincial, but Salamanca is a lively university town. I immediately fell in love with the energy of the place: lots of people, young and old, families and students and older folks like me, and lots of pleasantly bustling activity. The architecture is stunning, especially that of the university and the cathedral, and we were lucky enough that first afternoon to catch the warm light of the setting sun on the red stonework.
There was plenty to do and see to keep us busy for three days: palaces and convents, an incredible Art Nouveau collection, tasty cookies made by nuns, parks and a Roman bridge, even a film projector museum.
From Salamanca we went to Segovia where our luck with the weather ran out. It was pouring rain at the train station, raining when we got on a city bus, raining hard when we got off the bus at Plaza Artilleria under the aqueduct, and raining as we walked to our hotel.
Then our luck returned. After we unpacked a few things and relaxed for a while, the sky cleared, the sun came out, and we were ready to discover Segovia. Our luck got even better as we realized what was going on: Titirimundi, the International Puppet Theatre Festival. The streets were packed with families enjoying the street performers and the squares filled with people finding a good seat for the scheduled shows.
Like every other city in Europe, Segovia has food specialities, and I found two of them to be especially tasty: cochinillo (roast suckling pig) and ponche segoviano (a kind of sponge cake with pastry cream filling and a thin marzipan frosting). Segovia has beautiful churches and the famous Alacazar castle, and of course the Roman aqueduct that defines the city.
We would have enjoyed Segovia in any case, but it was an unexpected pleasure being able to stop every block or so to watch a clown, a juggler, or a puppeteer entertaining a crowd. Most impressive were Los Animóviles, fanciful mechanical contraptions made of scrap odds and ends. A kid or two would hop on one of these clackety beasts and be pushed round and round by a grown-up.
Lazy, slow travelers that we are, we've gotten into the habit of staying near the departure hub airport the last night of a trip. The alternative is to get up really, really early and make it back to Madrid, Paris, or Milan, where the flights back to the U.S. generally leave just before noon. Instead, we can take it easy on our last night and get up at a reasonable hour in time to make it to the airport.
So we took our time leaving Segovia and boarded a slow train to Madrid, where we rode the subway to an Ibis hotel in the Barajas suburb near the big airport. Looking for a last meal, we walked to the little town square, which was fortunately ringed by tapas restaurants. We picked one, Lizarran, and had one of the best meals of the trip. Rather than simply displaying tapas on the counter, Lizarran has their waiters continually exiting the kitchen with trays of hot, freshly prepared tapas. They walk from table to table, proferring the little dishes, and each diner is free to pick one or not as they choose. After several tapas and a couple glasses of wine, I had one last sit in the plaza before the short walk back to the hotel.
There's many more photos and a couple of videos in the complete Flickr album: Spain May 2016. Next week, there's one more trip, of a different kind, and then we rest for a bit as the summer travel season begins.