Salamanca to Ávila

The following morning, I let myself sleep in till 9:30. I still managed to get my stuff together and check my bags by 10:30. I walked around till I found a café that had chairs out already – a little difficult – and had a café con leche. Corte & Cata was directly across the street from the clerical college's Iglesia del Espíritu Santo and had a great view of the famous bell towers. I watched a few storks waking up and had fun photographing them with my zoom lens while around me, the human inhabitants of the city began to emerge as well. I decided not to climb the college church tower, happy with my cathedral views the day before.

After breakfast, I walked over to the part of the college that houses the Cielo de Salamanca. The restored medieval paintings were okay, but what was honestly cooler was listening to an orchestra warming up in the adjacent courtyard. I came across the Salamanca Museum and decided to visit - it was pretty neat for  €1. Yet again, the museum had a fleet of workers directing people where to go when a map or signage would have been easier. However, the prehistoric boars were worth the cost of admission alone.

After more walking and people-watching, I grabbed a bocadillo de jamon y queso at Viandas de Salamanca. It was absolutely heavenly. However, the shop had no place to sit, so I joined some other tourists on the shady stairs of a church just outside the plaza. Seriously - best sandwich ever.

After lunch, I walked around a bit more – bought a tee and sweatshirt with the Salamanca University logo along with a Real Madrid frog magnet. (I’d found the frog on the façade earlier that day.) I strolled past several of the palaces to the northwest of Plaza Mayor - Palacio Monterrey, Casa de las Muertes, Casa de Doña María la Brava, Palacio de Alonso Solís - and watched swallows sweep in and out of the strange tower of the Ursuline Convento de la Anunciación.

I found a stuffy bar where I ordered two tintos and watched most of Brazil-Costa Rica. For the first time, I was too stuffed for free tapas, aside from a few chips. I headed out at 70”, got my bags from the hotel, crossed the square, and finished watching the game at an outside bar by the taxi stand. I locked eyes with the first taxi driver in the queue, who was watching the game along with everyone else, and asked if we could leave directly after the game. He nodded. Keylor Navas is amazing, but Brazil scored two toward the end. We set off for the station, which despite being in a mall, had about six seats in the waiting area. Then it was off to Ávila.

I arrived at the station in Ávila and could tell this was the smallest place I’d visited on my own on this trip. The lone taxi was quickly taken – an older Spanish lady and I waited about five minutes while I silently fretted that I'd have to let her take the next one out of deference to her age and who knew how long it would be till the third same along... luckily, two came at once. On the ride in, I had a glorious view of the walls shining in the sun with wildflowers blooming in the foreground. There was a short line to check in at the Parador and my luggage was carried to my room by a perky teen obviously working a summer job.

I quickly put away my things and turned around to go out. I spent a blissful half hour photographing the flowers I'd noticed on my way in. Knowing it was getting late and I needed to get to the wall walk before it closed, I walked downhill to the entrance gate. 1) It was a steep €5 and 2) as I was digging out my change, the guy at the desk said "Cerrado". I'd come to Ávila, as everyone does, to visit the walls. The posted closing time was 8:00 - it was currently 7:25. Turns out, they don't let anyone up after 7:15. I asked if I could just run up, take a picture, and come right back down. The guy was super dismissive, emptying the till and hopping on his motorcycle to go get a beer with his friends. (I'm assuming - I mean, he could have been hurrying to visit his dying grandmother for all I know, but that's not the vibe he gave off.) I sat at the entrance and let myself cry for a bit. Travel can be emotionally taxing, especially when people who have the power to be kind - at no cost to themselves - choose to be jerks instead.

After that disappointment, I went back to the hotel to regroup, then headed out for dinner. My original plan had been to go to a highly rated restaurant around the corner, but once I entered the main square - the Plaza Mercado Chico - I knew I wanted to eat outside. I ended up at El Portalón, in the corner by the town hall, with a view of the church. At this point I was just defeatedly going with the flow and took the menú del día for €12.

The restaurant has pretty poor ratings - with titles like UNA VERGUENZA - on pretty much every ratings website. I neither knew nor cared. After the draining experience I'd just had, my waiter was kind, the local white beans were tasty and hearty, and the people-watching was restorative. (Surprisingly diverse) local families chilled on the benches in front of the church, while their kids raced scooters and Barbie cars and played soccer in several little semi-organized bunches. After dinner, I walked outside the walls, sat in the grass, and watched the moon rise over Ávila's unreachable walls.


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