Splendid Salamanca

When recently visiting my friend in Madrid, we decided to take a side trip. I’d already been to Toledo and Salamanca was a reasonably priced train ticket compared to other destinations. We’d heard it was beautiful, so we decided to spend the weekend there. I’m happy to report that Salamanca’s praise is well-earned. Uniformly stately sandstone buildings make up the small central part of the town, which is divided from the greater south of town by the River Tormes.

View of the River Tormes from an old town wall

You can see all the sights in a day or two, so it’s an ideal getaway from the bustle of Madrid. It’s about a 2.5-hour train ride from Madrid, depending on whether you take the slow or regular train. The slow train does offer more of an opportunity to see the landscape, which is very green compared to Madrid, though not especially noteworthy.

Some places I think are pretty and I enjoy the atmosphere. Salamanca was the kind of place that really took me by storm and I just felt like my eyes were voraciously drinking everything in. Every corner offers another stunning view of the architecture, especially the charming windows. Just aimlessly wandering this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a pleasure. It’s also small enough that you don’t feel dwarfed walking without a plan. There are definitely the busier parts of town, like the area directly surrounding the university, which happens to be one of the oldest in Europe. This lively area is a good place for people-watching and drinking. But there were also so many little empty corners that were completely still and peaceful. A leisurely stroll along the riverside trails is also relaxing.

Many things, like the garden, Huerto de Calixto y Melibea, were places we just stumbled upon. Another thing we found by looking for a restroom was a convent that sold its own sweets. There are several in town and it’s recommended to try it. The nuns support themselves with bakery sales and the cookies we bought were uniquely Spanish and delicious. The bocaditos, marzipan cookies filled with pumpkin marmalade, were my favorite.

Although I didn’t understand a word of it and it’s maybe longer than it has to be, the Saturday night tour of Catedral Nueva and Catedral Vieja, referred to as Ieronimus, is well worth the time. I’d never had the luxury of exploring cathedrals so closely. Getting access to the roof and the cathedral catwalks offers a singular tour experience, even if you can’t understand the guide. There are scannable icons in English in the rooms and they offer free Wi-fi, but I didn’t have a scan app on my phone. It’s essential to buy tickets in advance and in person from the Ieronimus box office.

The Museo de Art Nouveau y Art Deco (Casa Lis) was just up my alley. I simply love these periods of art history. The building itself is the showpiece, especially the stained glass ceiling. There is currently an exhibit of childrens’ dolls and many are delightfully creepy. There is a lovely cafe and restaurant adjoining the museum and the gift shop is splendid.

As for a dining recommendation, I have a fantastic one. I’d read about Vinodiario (Plaza de los Basilios, 1), but the dining experience there surpassed my expectations. It was so amazing, we had to eat there again the next day. Reservations are essential, as it’s not a big place but it’s got a big following. The chickpeas with chestnuts, plum, apricot and truffle is the big buzz and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. All the wines we sampled were outstanding, as the excellent staff can recommend selections for every palate. I even had a Spanish Lemberger, which is a grape I’d never seen outside of Germany. The fresh pasta of the day and the desserts are also outstanding. We spent about 55 Euros for our meal which included three glasses of wine a piece, three shared entrees and a dessert. I would have paid more and still have been more than satisfied.

I didn’t want to leave Salamanca! I highly recommend this gem as a respite from bustling Madrid or simply as a worthy destination of its own.

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