Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Ave Maria IV: Salamanca
Morning call was at 6:00 AM and we checked out of the hotel at about 7:45 AM after breakfast. Started the journey in mist and rain. During our toilet stop, we bought a 2 KG box of huge strawberries for just EUR5. Sweet and juicy snacks! The first leg of our journey brought us to Guarda some 243 KM away. Hardly realized that we had crossed the border into Spain. No fanfare, just a change in time zone.
Our lunch stop was at Restorante A Mexicana. Not sure if it was really Mexican food. Started with vegetable soup like usual and that was followed by pork chops and rice with beans. The dessert was a light as air flan called pudim molotov.
Continued our journey to Salamanca some 160 KM away. Salamanca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that throbs with the power of knowledge and youth. Students from all over flock to this ancient Celtic city to study in the beautiful blonde sandstone buildings. According to the local guide, the attraction of Salamanca lies not only the quality of its education programs, but also for its parties. In our wanderings, we spied Symbol of Victories painted on the walls of the University of Salamanca, Spain's oldest institute of higher learning and the fourth oldest in the Western world. For the last six centuries, graduates have been leaving their marks on university walls. An interesting sight.
Mass was celebrated at the Chapel of St. Clement inside the New Cathedral. That day I was asked to the reading and it was about the conversion of Saul. All we got to see of the New Cathedral was at that small cordoned off area and some of the vaulted ceiling. Unfortunately we had no time to see the Romanesque style of the Old Cathedral. And the heavy rain made things worse. Whipped out our umbrellas and made a quick dash pass The House of Shells (a building with 400 siham shells on its walls) and Plaza Mayor. Another lovely sight was the shops chock full of jamon iberico.
Before leaving for Madrid, we went for a toilet stop at the McDonald's (surprisingly there weren't any public toilets around). The cashier manning the counter got so agitated at us. He felt it was only fair if each person made a purchase before using the loo. Didn't need to shout. Yikes. Took us another couple of hours to cover 200 kilometers before reaching Madrid.
Marriott Auditorium Hotel was the best hotel we had stayed at so far. Everything was new and it looked posh. It was quite big too with a main conference center and many smaller rooms. The hotel rooms were arrayed as blocks at the back of the compound. We arrived kinda late so we quickly rushed to the restaurant to have our dinner. The nice people set a long table for us and we were served a three course dinner with red wine. Started with a salad that was topped with sliced beef and nuts. The main was a lovely beef steak with grilled peppers and deep-fried potato balls. To close, I was given a sweetly-sick sacher torte. Insulation was so good in the hotel that we actually switched on the air-conditioning before calling it a night!