Posted by: lindsaygoes | May 12, 2011

More adventures in Spain, and some in Portugal

Flamenco in Madrid

After my last email our tour leader took us out to dinner, and that night there was (in his opinion anyway) a rather important football match on. So he made us watch…and explained all about football/soccer through the entire meal. It was a little painful and I had to try and keep myself from asking deliberately stupid questions. In the end his team won so he bought a bottle of champagne which was ´his treat´, but when the bill came he asked everyone to put in a little extra ´for the champagne´. I didn´t even drink any.

The day after that (when our leader was a little hung over and grumpy) we headed for Segovia, a lovely town with an amazingly well preserved, and enormous Roman aqueduct runnning through the centre square. We walked around the town and visited Alcazar, apparently the castle in Disney´s Sleeping Beauty is based on that. The provided audio guide was a little dull, so we made up our own explanations which were highly amusing (to us anyway).

Still in Segovia the next day we went to another castle, La Granja, where we had a lovely guide. We were her first English tour, so she was a bit nervous. All the paintings (of which there were many) had little symbols in the corners indicating whether they were part of the King´s or the Queen´s collection. I´m sure if the Queen liked one of the King´s paintings she would have changed the mark! The attached gardens were enormous and had some lovely fountains. We then caught the bus back to Segovia (where I had an old toothless guy talking to me in Spanish, even after it was clear I had no idea what he was saying, and I´m sure when he brushed against me pointing to his house, it wasn´t quite accidental). Back in Segovia we had one of the local delicacies for lunch, suckling pig. Very tasty, although I left the kidney which was attached on the inside of my section of ribs. In the
evening I decided it would be nice to see the aqueduct at sunset, but I mistimed it and ended up waiting around for about an hour and a half before it started darkening, but I did take quite a lot of photos, with my camera and other peoples as they wanted their portraits. Maybe I should start charging?

The following morning we headed from Segovia to Madrid. We had a bit of a wander and then joined a walking tour which was really interesting and then went to the Reina Sofia, a modern art gallery with some really interesting pieces. The group was dividing in Madrid so we went out for a paella, which was delicious, although I had another kidney in mine. After that we caught a late (midnight, so late for me, not late when you´re in Spain) flamenco show. The male dancer was about 100 and was amazingly fast, doing a lot better than some of the singers who we thought might pass out.

I woke up the next day to find that it was bucketing down, but I didn´t want to waste the day so after a quick breakfast (they look at you strangely if you go into a cafe and ask for a cup of cold milk to take away) I headed out into the wet. The only thing I minded was my shoes. I had to duck into a couple of shops to get out of the rain, and that´s the only reason I bought stuff (one was an umbrella anyway). Then after a bit of consideration I joined another walking tour going in the opposite direction than the day before, and I´m so glad I did. There were only five of us on the tour so we got to go into places bigger groups couldn´t and it stopped raining about 10 minutes into the tour. We went into a church which contained a cloistered monastery and saw a nun behind a grill, as well as a shop which sold pastries made by nuns all over Spain (I think the guide had a thing for nuns). After the tour was finished I had a bit more of a wander around Madrid by myself before meeting the new people in the group.

It was an early start the next day to leave Madrid to head to Salamanca, another lovely town. When we were walking round I got in trouble for taking too long in a souvenir shop. After a bit of an introduction to the town I went to the Lis, a gorgeous Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum. As you walk in there is an enormous stained glass ceiling, which really makes you annoyed that you have to leave your cameras at the front desk. It was an incredible building with lots of gorgeous art and a creepy doll collection, particularly the ones that you can twist the heads around to the second face so they have different expressions. A couple of us also went to St Stephen´s Church, which was quite interesting, particularly as churches tend to start blending together fairly quickly. It had a gorgeous stone staircase finished in 1556. Dinner was in the main plaza where they had a band, so some nice live music for us.

From Salamanca we crossed the border into Portugal and Coimbra, with three buses for the day which was a bit of a pain. Coimbra is a student town, but very steep so you can get a lift to the top. When we were there it was a student celebratory week so we saw lots of students in their uniforms of a black cape. Lots of gorgeous buildings and Coimbra and we went into one of the university buildings, some old courtyards and saw an amazing astrological ceiling fresco. At dinner everyone (apart from me) got a bit confused because you couldn´t order wine by the glass, only the bottle, and almost everyone ordered a bottle accidentally.

We had a day trip from Coimbra to Conimbriga the next day. Conimbriga is the best preserved Roman Ruins in Portugal and it was nice to get out of town into a more natural setting. There weren´t many people there and it was a lovely spot. We got back to Coimbra in the afternoon and did a river cruise although slightly more complicated that we had hoped. The 3pm cruise was delayed so the 4pm cruise we wanted to get was cancelled, so we got the 5pm, which was full of fairly mature inebriated women, one of who pinched the boat photographers bum at one stage. Lovely scenery from the boat though! After dinner we went to a Fado show (traditional Portugese music) but this time the accordianist had been on the grog and could hardly
stand, let alone play an instrument.

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