Salamanca

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The charming little city of Salamanca, just a two and a half hour drive from Madrid, is a fairly recent discovery of mine but has rapidly become one of, if not my favourite, place in Spain. Not really one to keep returning to the same place over and over again, I’ve already visited Salamanca three times since September and it still holds that unique historical and atmospheric charm for me every time I lay my feet on the cobbled stones of Plaza Mayor. So how has Salamanca gained such high praise from me? Quite simply, through an uncomplicated, enduring sparkle which is incomparable to any other city I’ve been to, even within Spain. The juxtaposition of elegant and perfectly uniform highly detailed architecture next to the care free student population which inhabit it create an almost magical atmosphere during the day (especially for a Harry Potter geek like myself) which evolves into a great party atmosphere every night of the week after the sun goes down. Or WAY after the sun goes down if you’re accustomed to Spanish going out times. It also helps that I have a wonderful Spanish friend living there who welcomes me into her home whenever the Madrid Metro is making me want to tear my hair out, or when another waiter has dumped my food unceremoniously in front of me and I feel the need to escape the city. She also sometimes does a little impromptu reading aloud too.

image
For such a small city, Salamanca is absolutely rammed with beautiful things to see. Plaza Mayor in Madrid pales in comparison to the one in Salamanca, which is best seen at night. While Madrid’s Plaza mayor is filled with tacky mime artists aimed at the hordes of tourists swarming around tour guides (I have been one myself so I won’t judge), Salamanca’s is filled with tourists and locals alike; although in this instance they’re normally huddled around a Lonely Planet guide and a few bottles of Don Simon Sangria rather than a tour. It’s also beautiful without Instagram, sorry about that.
image

As it’s already night time on this imaginary tour, you may well find yourself a little peckish. Or if you’re like me, your stomach might be thinking your throat’s been cut because you haven’t eaten a fro-yo in the last 2 hours. All the locals and all the guide books have only one destination in mind…Calle Van Dyck, and for very good reason. There are two restaurants on this street which I would go as far to say as have served me some of the most delicious tapas I’ve ever tasted in Spain. Firstly, and possibly most fondly placed in my heart, is Tevere which is a teeny tiny little restaurant quite far down the street, There are only around 5 tables and a few bar stalls so you really have to get there before 9pm to secure yourself a seat. The menu is as small as the bar itself so if you´re in a group of more than 5, just order everything…trust me it´s all delicious! The meals are brought out to you tapa by tapa which is unusual as you have five people swarming round a tiny plate of food which can be, if you´re English, very difficult to negotiate. Don´t forget that ruler to make sure you get exactly your fair share! Another great thing about this restaurant is that they give you free bread. This may not seem like an important thing to dwell on in a blog post about one restaurant in a city full of restaurants, but it’s very important to me. And the bread is amazing…chewy on the outside and doughy soft on the inside, very important when all the food comes covered in amazing cheesy, mustardy, sweet sauces.

image

(Photo: Charlotte Brady)

 Also on Calle Van Dyck is Rufo's, it is in fact the first restaurant on the right as you enter the street, The bar which conceals the quiet restaurant behind is bustling and crammed with people fighting over bar stalls and wooden barrels to lean their wine and tapas on. Passing through the bar into the tranquility of the sit down resturant behind, we were a little concerned that no one else was choosing to sit back there but decided it was perhaps because we were “early” (it was 9:00pm). As there were 6 of us, we ordered a sharing platter of cheeses, meats, chorizo in red wine (personal highlight), breads, peppers and calamares. This idea of a sharing platter (at normally around 10€ a head) is quite common in Spain, but the quality of the food varies drastically. In most cases, as with restaurants with pictures of the food on the menu, it´s pretty rubbish. Occasionally though, you’ll find a gem, and we certainly found one in this restaurant. The only thing we left behind was the cured beef, cut like jamon serrano but with a chewy, woody texture that wasn’t to any of our tastes. The restaurant section also remained suspiciously empty and understaffed all night. Top marks for presentation and taste though!

image

Salamanca isn’t just food though, whatever this post may be persuading you to believe. As I mentioned before, there is also a huge amount of stunning architecture to explore, starting with the cathedral. On entering Salamanca from the direction of Madrid, the imposing sight of the cathedral over the river is almost like a hint of the beautiful city you’re about to arrive into, and it’s particularly impressive at night. Up close, its an imposing building, impressive even amongst the 13th century architecture that surrounds it. Part of the façade of the building was recently reconstructed so if you look closely, you can see an astronaut, a dragon licking an ice cream and a cherub with one peculiar feature I wouldn’t dare write on Tumblr carved into the building. It’s this cheeky sense of humour that I love about Salamanca. Opposite is the Faculty of English with graffitied names of all the top students in every year painting the walls of the inside and dating back hundreds of years. This is where the Harry Potter feeling really kicks in.
  image

 Next you can head to el Huerto de Calixto y Melibea which can be found near to the cathedral. This quaint little courtyard garden offers good views over the city and also a chance for the romantically inclined to add a love lock to the well in the centre of the rose garden. It’s a nice place to relax and catch your breath on a good day and provides a beautiful view of the cathedral dome. Energy restored, walk down to the bridge and cross the river to get another amazing view of the cathedral from afar. At the risk of writing something that may be construed as crazy here, whilst you’re by the river, look up at the sky and see if there are any brightly coloured birds flying over head. A colleague came back one day from Salamanca telling me that her and a friend had seen red, green and orange birds flying above them while they were lying on the river bank. Obviously, I asked her what they had been smoking but she was convinced she had seen them. Last time I went to Salamanca, we were heading in the direction of the river when something caught my eye - a flock of red birds circling far ahead in the distance. I’ve just Googled it and nothing’s come up so maybe they’re just putting something in the water in Salamanca but I was pretty confused I must admit.

image

This is all beautiful and you can expect to be wowed but for me Salamanca is also about the great nightlife. The great CHEAP nightlife. Being poor assistant teachers, it often stings to pay 12€ to get into a club in Madrid so a night out in Salamanca is so refreshingly simple and free from ‘oh we could buy 25 baguettes with the money I just spent on this drink’. The best thing of all is the shot bars, Daniel’s, just off Gran Via, being my Chupiteria of choice. Look at these things, they’re not even scary:

image

A few of those, and you’re on your way to a brilliant night in Salamanca I’ll tell you. Top it off with entrance fees being very rare and free drinks vouchers pouring at you in a flood from people on the streets and you’ve got yourself some very happy visiting Madrileñas. The atmosphere is akin to freshers week in the UK but it extends to every night of the week - cheap drinks, friendly people and a feeling that anything could happen next. The next morning, cure your hangover with a trip to the Croissanteria Paris, a tiny little bakery on Rua Mayor which has a variety of amazing different pastries every day. Blow away those cobwebs with a wander round the centre, or head up the Cathedral tower to see Salamanca in all it’s glory. That’s probably going to be enough strenuous activity after last nights antics so find Mandala on Calle de Serranos where delicious English style cakes and fresh milkshakes are the order of the day. I often find Spanish cakes disappointing as they range from tasteless to downright disgusting so biting into a toffee apple cake here was a breath of fresh air for a serious cake addict like myself. We always seem to wind down our weekends in Mandala, drinking milkshakes and hot chocolate until we feel human again. This post has spiralled out of control in length because I couldn’t bear to cut anything out so congratulations if you reached the end, you’re either very interested in Salamanca or you’re my mother. Hi mum!

You Might Also Like

22 comments

recent posts

Like us on Facebook

Flickr Images