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Late Doors

Madrid-Salamanca-Segovia-Toledo

Spain is such an interesting country, tons of history, not too dissimilar to ours with migration, invasion, unification, Religious strife, empire, war and decline. As usual the main topics of news there are the economy, immigration, independence for elements of the nation and unemployment. Even the weather is diverse. Cold in the North, extremities of hot and cold in the central areas and Mediterranean in the errr Med areas. The food is fantastic as is the drink and the women are in possession of the finest legs humanity has known. It has always been thus apparently as documented in the Apollo chronicles. The son of Zeus was heard to say " you know what dad? these Greek birds are alright but one could tarry amongst the pins of an Iberian Lass forever and a day tha'nos" Aye lad the Father of all Gods replied, taking another suckle from his pipe.

First time for me in this central area and arrived in Madrid Sunday Afternoon via Liverpool easy jet. Our Hotel, a Budget Ibis was a good metro ride out of town in El Camino. Away from the city but easily accessible on the Metro. Crucially it was ridiculously good value and quiet. A twenty minute stroll towards the city took us to the bull ring. As it happens there was a match on that night. I say a match, more like Barca versus FC Halifax but regardless of any views one may have on the errr, sport, it is massive in Spain.

We pressed on for a steady first night getting ourselves into the holiday vibe, which we did almost immediately with a few drinks a Tapas in and around the Palacio de los Deportes full of local families including kids playing football not too fussy where they kicked the ball. In the end the waiter had to confiscate the ball and send them away. Ten minutes later he made them go round all the tables to apologise before he gave them their ball back. I tried to imagine a similar scene in London, I couldn't

Madrid is a strange capital. No port, no big river, no real remarkable defining architectural statement. It isn't full of grandiosity or the hub of anything global or the center of much historical significance. In fact it only became a capital by virtue of its central geographical position when the king wanted to unite the land in about 1560. Its slightly raised plateau amongst the flat lands of central Spain makes it extremely hot in Summer and very cold in Winter and the seasons change abruptly from Summer to Winter with not much in between apparently.

That said it is full of characterfull areas (Barrios) that have their own identity and appeal. La Latina, Goya and Cheuca were places we found ourselves in more than once. The whole place is lively and garrulous especially as night draws in. What architectural opulence there is lies mainly along the Calle De Alcala heading Eastish out of the centre and  the Vast if a little staid Palacio Real to the West.

We were warned by a few people about pickpockets in the City and other crimes which were on the increase but to be honest for a city that is supposed to be skint we saw very little evidence of that. Some districts were distinctly Sloane but most simply had an air of industrious sheen about them. There were a few characters loafing about that had to be watched in some places but nothing threatening or intimidating.

A  spacious park provided relief from the city hum but as usual abroad it was nowhere near as splendiferous as those we have at home. There are some world class museums in the city but as usual again we didn't fancy spoiling the September sunshine by wasting it so left them for maybe another time. The real joy of Madrid was in searching out and finding the subtleties, the things locals enjoy. Terrific Tapas bars, great al fresco atmosphere, fab transport and just brilliant for walking around looking and observing stopping off here and there for a break. I understand that the after midnight night life is amongst the best in the world, alas I have no comment to make on that as after midnight these days is merely an Eric Clapton song to us.

We did visit a kind of museum on the Wednesday morning when it actually rained. Joaquín Sorolla is not exactly your usual struggling artist. Not without his early trauma he had an art education from a very early age. His old house is now preserved roughly as it was when he worked there and holds a lot of his paintings that adorn the walls. They ranged from quite mundane landscapes, interesting portraits but the best were brilliant beach scenes bathed in intense low evening sunshine particularly featuring his family.

Have to report an uncomfortable moment with a chap in the hotel who asked if I was going to visit the Bernabau. I said am I fuck, I hate those twats as much as I hate Manu. I only rescued the situation by quickly adding and Barcelona which seemed to relax his tensed up face. As it happens we did take a trip south to the Vicente Calderon home of Athletic Madrid. Nice stadium, don't know why they are leaving it soon. Certainly most of  the shirts and paraphernalia around the city were mainly red and white.

Nothing else to report. Madrid isn't a world class tourist destination but I imagine a brilliant place to live. In fact no there was something else, I actually complained about a meal we had. Well it was MrsDs. It was a Steak Lasagna(don't ask) In a place that was supposed to be rated called Bazaar. Absolutely revolting.  It was the mankiest fattiest grizzliest piece of steak ever and the pasta was like a pair of used gym underpants, rank it was. I told him and we didn't pay for it. Everything else was fine though.  So it was a train North West Thursday morning to Salamanca, a different town altogether.  

Ist night in Palacio de los Deportes



Calle De Alcala



Alfresco living





bearing

Does LD work?

Sounded nice, looking forward to Salamanca.
Forest

bearing wrote:
Does LD work?


MI6 or summat I'm guessing.
bearing

Forest wrote:
bearing wrote:
Does LD work?


MI6 or summat I'm guessing.


Licensed to erm....

Holy Toledo!
sheeps

Thanks LD.

*packs bag for next leg*
Plastic Man

The as anticipated entertaining travel reportage.

bearing wrote:
Does LD work?


Let's just say - have you ever seen Judith Chalmers and LD in the same room?
bearing

Plastic Man wrote:
The as anticipated entertaining travel reportage.

bearing wrote:
Does LD work?


Let's just say - have you ever seen Judith Chalmers and LD in the same room?


I suggested he was our Judith Chalmers recently, so that's two of us now LD...
sheeps

Three.
Grind

Does LD wear knickers?
bearing

Grind wrote:
Does LD wear knickers?


No he doesn't or so Dock reckons. On this evidence can I add you as the fourth?
Grind

bearing wrote:
Grind wrote:
Does LD wear knickers?


No he doesn't or so Dock reckons. On this evidence can I add you as the fourth?


Yes. I've always been a bit of a sheep.
bearing

Brilliant, he is now Judith Chalmers.
Grind

So stay on my arm, you little Chalmer
Late Doors

Ha very good that Gman   .


You guys eh  


Judith Chalmers is a Manc FFS. behave yersens  

what's happened to all those travel progs we used to get? have they suffered in the budget cuts? more economical to film housy things and cooking stuff?
bearing

Late Doors wrote:
Ha very good that Gman   .


You guys eh  


Judith Chalmers is a Manc FFS. behave yersens  

what's happened to all those travel progs we used to get? have they suffered in the budget cuts? more economical to film housy things and cooking stuff?


I used to like watching 'em
Late Doors

The train headed south away from the capital through a heaving sprawling mass of urban blandness. Collections of pimply high rises gathering together like acne amongst dull industrial complexes and retail centres thrown together with all the harmonious sensitivity of a   scrap yard. We snaked back North west for the nigh on three hour journey to Salamanca through the flat agricultural plains of l the Castilla y Leon region of central Spain. The station at Salamanca is about 25 minutes away from the old town center. The old town is a town within a town, more like a living museum of architectural history amongst a pleasant ordinary working town.

Our hotel was on the brink of it and we immediately headed there. It was Fiesta time, stalls and stages peppered the streets and squares all well attended by munching chattering groups while  various performers roamed around.

Principally the town's main attraction is the majestic sandstone architecture not too dissimilar to our York Stone in fact. It's called Villamayor and lends itself to intricate carvings and sculpture. The universities, cathedrals and the whole plaza mayor where huge majestic and immaculate examples of it interspersed with a plethora of other lesser but still striking structures. As if the buildings alone were not impressive enough they took on a saturation of golden intensity during the sunrise and sundown hours that further accentuated the intricate carvings. The whole place was a gazing treat to wander around especially one morning when we were up for the sunrise. The view back to the town from the old Roman bridge as the sun kissed the roof tops was amazing.

An historical university town there were lots of students around returning for the new year which also gave the place an organic vibrant feel to overcome the obvious tourist element. Only one night did we seek out a specific restaurant and that was the ace Vinodiario gourmet  tapas place with great staff and an outdoor dining area. Some of the best tucker we had all fortnight as well, so much we have both forgotten what we had. Some stuffed tomatoes I remember were sensational, as was a fish dish we had.

MrsD entered into potentially offensive debate with a barman in a bar not far away when he told her the bar had no red wine. What? a bar in Spain with no red wine she laughed. He didn't, but a couple of local women did and explained that "we drink beer in here". It became our local for three nights. The rest of the time we perused the tapas stalls in the evening as everybody else did. Mini hamburgers, fish tempura on a stick, all kinds of pork kebab and plastic cups of Rioja and beer. Good fun but hardly Egon Ronay faire.

Despite it being the most expensive place in town the main square was the best place to tarry. An opulent grandiose  statement of history and heritage. With a dirty great stage plonked in it for the Fiesta. A nationally famous band called Lori Meyers sound checked one evening as we sipped and observed. Quite good, not unlike the many indie guitar pop bands we have and I say that as a good thing.

We even put in a couple of museum visits including the brilliant Museo Art Noveau y Art Deco. A staggeringly wonderful collection of artefacts from those brilliant eras of design.

Segovia next up on the early train again, I say early, more like the last bus out of town but more about that in the next instalment.

















Dock

Just had a nice leisurely read of that LD. Great informative report as usual. Ta bud!
bearing

Dock wrote:
Just had a nice leisurely read of that LD. Great informative report as usual. Ta bud!


Did you have a mug of Cerveza on the go at the time?
Dock

bearing wrote:
Dock wrote:
Just had a nice leisurely read of that LD. Great informative report as usual. Ta bud!


Did you have a mug of Cerveza on the go at the time?


Frankly, no. Just a cup of rosy. But that was then. I'm now quaffing an original Guinness (none of that smooth flow pish).
Late Doors

They stop out late in Spain, dinner at ten, cocktails at midnight and the last train home at 0600. No kidding, Sunday morning and hordes of kids walking home, some of them in the direction of the train station, singing and chanting. Groups of lads and lasses obviously pissed but not lairy, giggling and flirting until they one by one fell asleep as the sun rose to our left in the East over the flat plains. It was about two hours to Segovia via another connection. Plenty of time for the young uns to miss their stop but we suspected it wasn't the first time they had caught this train. One and a half hours later like hibernating squirrels they woke just in time for the station, a little dishevelled  but fine. A 90 minute train ride for a night out eh?. We caught the connection to Segovia main station way out of town. It was surreal, a massive car park and an obelisk station amidst a mass of nothingness. We looked around, this was it, no town, buildings no trees just a bus. We thought about walking it but that was out of the question. The bus took about 25 minutes and dropped us off on the edge of old town where the stupendous Roman aqueduct stood defiantly across the whole town.

Our hotel was through it and across the other side of town so we took a steady 15 minute stroll under the slightly unnerving ancient structure seemingly held together by gravity and a prayer and along the main drag. The place immediately held out a hospitable welcome and a beckoning come hither. MrsD had picked a bit of a special hotel this time, on the edge of the old town with terraces looking towards the Alcazar. The Alcazar was used as the blueprint for Walt Disney's Castle in Disney land, almost an exact replica only this one hosted ancient armour, artefacts and deco from its rich heritage rather than huge talking Mice and hot dogs. It was burned down in 1862 and rebuilt not long after rather unsympathetically some say and it is a little too pristine for comfort. Great panoramic views from it though. Splendid views of it and the whole town are to be had from surrounding woodland area. Its elevated position giving it a lofty stately stature perched high amongst the very pleasant 6 mile walk around the perimeter through parks river and woodlands.

Just the two nights here so no time to lose. It isn't a big town and all streets inevitably lead you to the plaza Mayor dominated by a beautiful gothic cathedral. In and around are little bars and cafes some serving the local specialty, whole roast suckling pig, head, tail, the lot on a plate. We opted for a fab little Lebanese place tucked away but with brilliant views of the Aqueduct. The great value Mezze was advertised but not offered until we asked for it which was a bit naughty. Still it was a fresh zingy assortment of meats, veg, cold dips and bread spoilt on by a disgusting German business man who insisted on snapping his fingers for service whilst his Mediterranean looking rent boy looked on embarrassed but still business like. 'twas a tad bizarre even for seasoned liberals like us. He was odious in the extreme and the lad looked at us almost apologetically and thanked us for explaining the menu to them whilst kaiser kuntface completely ignored us.

We were back early to enjoy night caps on the terrace. A bit chilly once the sun had disappeared yonder behind the Alcazar but still memorable. Did more of the same the second day, just wandering, looking, tarrying but this time in detail and into more off piste areas. Had a fabulous ham sandwich for lunch from a speciality Iberian ham shop where the queues suggested it was  something special. It was, sweet salty buttery textured ham that melted on your tongue and had a subtle earthiness that the fresh bread wrapped around perfectly. Absolutely beautiful. Three quid but absolutely beautiful. That evening we discovered a curry place as well. Now curry places abroad have the Russian roulette syndrome and this pace was a winner. Run by alternative types obviously with a passion for India it certainly wasn't your archetypal Kohinoor tandoori and had a limited menu but the freshness, liveliness, spice blends and rustic presentation made it as authentic an Indian I can imagine. The sort you see on telly with proper Indian Chefs in India. It was sensational and to top it all they had proper beer from a Madrid Micro brewery as well. Restaurante La Juderia

Two nights was enough in Segovia, charming, concentrated, beautifully situated, a smattering of terrific architecture and good eats. Next up Toledo to round off our Trip.



A look that says, Sports Casual i'm sure you'll agree







Lebanese place with the other "couple" just to the left off camera



Night Night Mickey


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