Sunday, October 30, 2022

Valladolid dèjá vu... but different

NOTE: This is a longer than normal posting, as we wrap up our time in Spain. 
Thank you for joining us as we explored this beautiful country.

We have returned to explore more of Valladolid before going on to Madrid and our flight back to reality.
Much smaller than Rome or Madrid, Valladolid has a lot of history. Some of which is still standing, other buried or recycled into other structures. Once the capital of Spain, Valladolid has many old catherals and government buildings, some dating as far back as the 11th century.

For our return visit, we found a small third floor, one bedroom apartment across the street from the main Cathedral. From here we can explore on foot without the need of taxis like we had to do in Rome. Being in the heart of the old town offers easy walking access to the most interesting monuments, churches, dining and shopping. Old town may sound like old dusty edifices, but in reality the neighborhood is full of families, retirees, youngsters that bring the streets alive every morning, sometimes late into the night.

It's ten pm, looking down from our balcony. 
The area is very walkable.

Stepping out into the Plaza the first night, 
captured an iPhone photographer shooting the same scene.

For the next few days, I planned to sit in the Plaza in front of the Cathedral, people watch and capture their images under the watchful eye of Miguel D. Cervantes' statue. Miguel is an author from Valladolid. 
He wrote Don Quijote, Man of La Mancha.

Classic Valladolid street crossing to the Plaza

Under watchful eyes of M. Cervantes

Threatened to rain but never did

Settled in with the old folks and watched... 
people coming and going.
This was one of the few plazas we have seen that have chairs and benches.
Am really liking Valladolid. Has all the offering of a large city 
with a small town pace.

With her daily newspaper, she enjoyed the fresh air and cool weather on a plaza bench.
When did reading the morning newspaper go out of fashion?

Observed the younger generation go about doing what young people do today.

It became a guessing game: Name that person's field of study or occupation!

Or just be entertained watching them interact with each other

Watching the older generation can be interesting too.
What did he do before his iPhone?

Then another senior passes by with iPhone in hand.
Cell phones here are as common as people smoking. 
Though have not seen any retirees smoking.
Maybe smokers don't live long enough to retire?

Look at the building directly behind the two gentlemen - shades down, third floor up.  
That's where we are staying, one bedroom airbnb.

There one can hear all the sounds of life in the Plaza up there. 
We love it.

 Because parking is such a problem, most people walk, or bicycle, or scooter or... The lightweight electric T-bar scooters are gaining popularity here. Some even have a headlamp, tail light and a disk brake. 
One sees them mixing in with the cars going by just like bicycles and motorcycles.

North of the Plaza is the College of Law for the Universidad de Valladolid.
Lawyers or Professors are frequently seen walking nearby, in suit and tie with briefcase in hand.

Back in the Plaza, a teens share time together...
If it looks cool here, the temps are low to mid-fifties in the mornings, rising to low 70's by 4 pm.

The Cathedral finally opened their doors, so we could go in.

Anchoring the Plaza de la Universidad is the Valladolid Cathedral. Construction started in 1527 on the site of a former 13th century Collegiate (old royal chapel). It was completed in the 17th century. We found this church to be one of the most authentic cathedrals we have seen in Europe. No ornate artwork, no smooth marble floors, or heavy tapestry, just rough cut, hand laid local granite. 

Some floor stones even rock a bit when you step on them. Stiletto heels are not recommended. It is very obvious this Cathedral does not have a wealthy patronage. With a dozen or so different catholic churches in Valladolid, support is spread thin.

Quite dark inside, I asked Amparo to use the light on her iPhone to illuminate her face for the photo. 
That was too bright, but here it is anyways. 

This is the entry alcove, it gets darker further in. 

Had to adjust the exposure on the camera to capture photos in the dark interior.

Central Cathedral nave and altar. 
During Mass, the altar and transept are illuminated

Original Cathedral lighting fixture, still in use today.
Behind it, is an old non-original hot water radiator.

Returned the next day to get a better photo of the church altar. 
Even the gold center altar cannot overcome the humbleness of the cold granite stone.

From the Cathedral, we walked the narrow streets toward the Plaza Mayor.
Yes, cars can and do drive through here too.

One of the typical newsstands found in Europe. 
A worker refills his mop bucket from the public water fountain. These public fountains are quite common. They told us the water is safe to drink everywhere in Spain. We did not try it. 

We did see many fill bottles, draw water for their dogs or drink directly from the fountain. 
The people here love dogs as they are a common sight being walked, especially in the evenings.

We found all Spanish cities to be very clean. 
Those are falling leaves on the pavement, not trash.

After meandering through the narrow streets, we arrived at the Plaza Mayor around noon. Other than the numerous restaurants with outdoor seating surrounding the large Plaza, not much going on today.

The imposing building above is the civil government building, courts, administration, etc. 
We saw a couple emerge after being married in a civil ceremony. The family gathered to take the traditional family wedding photos in the middle of the Plaza.

Our final day in Valladolid, we drove to Rueda once more, 
then to Olmeda where we visited La Mota Castle.

Tomorrow we drive to Madrid for a few days before departing for Texas.
This trip has been an adventure for Amparo. Her first time to travel international without a daily destination, without knowing where we would be sleeping every night.

This has been a great learning experience, with many pleasant surprises, 
interesting food choices and many very nice people everywhere we went.

We could spend a month or so in Spain, using Valladolid as a base. 
Maybe in 2024 or 26...


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Spain - Playa Barro, between Llames and Llanes

We are slow travelers, stopping for gas, coffee and leg stretching periodically. From Santiago, we drove six hours to Playa Barro.  It is located between Llames and Llanes which is between Oviedo and Santander on the north coast. 
Sound confusing? It was for the GPS too.

How are we deciding where to go ? Pre-planned? No pre-planning at all. The only thing we decided on before starting was that we were going to explore the north and northwest provinces of Spain 
as they were unknown areas to us. 

We are booking our four-five day stays using AirBnB. A day to two before we depart to a new area, we look at the weather forecast, the map, think about what we want to see, what is going on in that destination, then search online for a decent priced accommodation that meet our minimum standard: minimum clean one bedroom, one bath, kitchen, wi-fi, secure parking, no climbing of stairs. 
We looked at going to Salamanca, but there was a big race going on there this weekend. Most places were booked. We drove north to the central coast area instead.

Arrived late afternoon, walked out on the beach at sunset to grab a photo with the tide out.

Next morning drove a narrow winding country roads to the closest market. We are running low 
on eggs, instant coffee, wine and bread.

Came across this old church with its attached above ground cemetery on a back water inlet...

Returned later at low tide, same country church, different angle.
The Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean lie beyond the far ridge.

Found a remnant of Roman design granary. The original idea was to store their grain harvest in these small huts on top of stone or wooden pillars to alleviate any moisture problem. 
Also to prevent critters from getting in, consuming their winter stockpile. 

Today the design is used as an outdoor entertainment patio, 
or a mother-in-law apartment upstairs?

We came across another interesting rocky beach area in the late afternoon. 
Doesn't look like a good surfing beach.

Interestingly, we are staying next door to a surfing school, but have not seen anyone in there.
The waves were not particularly strong here, so it must not be the right season.

***   ***   ***   ***

Near Playa Barro is the small village of Balmori. Did some walking and exploring around it today.
Spotted this old abandoned farm house that had a bit of character to it.

A short distance away stood the simple Balmori village church. Still in use 
but nothing fancy like the cathedrals.

Not many people out this afternoon... one lone bicyclist. 
Bicycles are a common mode of transportation in Europe with its narrow streets.

Finding a place to park our rental car is the biggest challenge we have faced here. 

Across the mowed hay field, one can see the cathedral on the bay.

What might look like a road going through to another beach or village on the GPS, often dead ends at a gate or fence? Turning around a car can be a major challenge at times.

Almost hidden up a country lane was an abandoned home on a stream. 
Windows were open but still looked abandoned. 
Did not try approaching.

Liked the way the morning sun streamed down through the trees,
dancing across the old stucco walls.

That concludes our time on Spain's north coast. No parades or street protests to declare, sorry.

Tomorrow we return to old town Valladolid to explore a little more, 
but in a different neighborhood this time.


Monday, October 24, 2022

Spain - Santiago at night, a street protest

Roaming a new place at night is always an interesting experience. One never knows what one might find. Tonight was no different as I walked to the historic Cathedral.

Love these old streetlamps with their bright yet small radius for illumination. 
That hard light, rough stone walls and cobblestone streets give that 1800's feel to a scene.

The Santiago Cathedral was illuminated after all.
Since I only travel with a monopod for the camera, 
getting a sharp long exposure was a challenge.

A tall elaborate iron gate and fence protect the church from night vandals.

Under a portico across the square from the church was a group of local musicians performing for anyone who wished to watch. Very elaborate costumes, traditional instruments, playing old and new Spanish, Mexican, even Cuban songs for the crowd to sing along. 
Clapping and smiling, the tourists were enjoying their show.

Around the corner from the Spanish group, was a poor lonely hiker 
trying to gather a few coins of her own, playing a soft lullaby on a flute for few wandering by.
No smiling crowd, singing, clapping, buying CD's,
she garnered a only few coins.

Am discovering is a common scene in Europe,
young lovers finding a dark doorway for romance.
Thinking about it, teenage pregnancies must be much lower here 
than in the States, where teenagers have access to a car for their backseat romance.

These couples are the easiest to photograph. With their raging hormones. 
they are totally focused on each other, completely ignoring the rest of the world.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

From our balcony each morning, we could watch a street beggar occupy his "seat" in front of a small bank across the street.  Be it cold, windy, dry or rain, every day he was there. 

Arriving by 8 am, he would set up, say a pray, cross himself and start the day. In his small bowl were a few priming coins. As passersby dropped coins in, he would wait a minute, look both ways before removing the new coins, leaving the priming coins behind. 
He knows his trade and his customers.
His few coins were for "priming the pump" of sympathy. 

Here it is common for stores and restaurants to be closed each day from 2 pm until 4 pm.
At 2 pm, he would pack up and leave. Only to return the next day.
He never did return at four.

On this morning, a loud disturbance was heard coming down the street, 
attracting everyone's attention.

We could hear the noises, shouts and loud voices on a bullhorn from the street though the windows were closed. Seems a labor group decided to protest at a number of bank branch offices on our street. 

Their chants of: "Lower Prices - Higher Wages" grew louder and louder. 

Here they came... on our side of the street.

Blocking busy traffic, they flooded the street in spite of the Police van that showed up. 
Never saw a policeman step out of the van.

Shouting "Lower Prices - Higher Wages"...
how they thought branch banks had anything to do with broad economics issues like wages and prices was beyond us. Thinking did not seem to affect their enthusiasm for making noise and little else.

For an hour they made a scene, using a bullhorn, chanting their "Lower Prices - Higher Wages" in front of the storefront bank and the beggar. Poor guy, he was losing his meager daily income as people who might have dropped him a few coins were now crossing to the other side of the street to avoid the noisy protest.

Seems the protestors' only accomplishment was lower wages for the poor beggar.

On our last day in Valladolid, and now here in Santiago, 
was concluded with a parade or a demonstration... 
we wonder what the next stop has in store for us? 

 Now we are off to Playa Barro between Llames and Llanes, 
a small beach enclave on the northern coast of Spain.

Will be looking for interesting Roman structures up there.


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Spain - Santiago de Compostela

According to legend, one of the 12 apostles', St. James (Santiago in Spanish), body was brought to Galicia, northern Spain. In AD 813 his supposed relics were found in Santiago, where a cathedral was built in his honor. 

Santiago de Compostela was Christendom's third most important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, after Jerusalem and Rome. Over half a million persons a year journeyed here from all over Europe. Even today, over 200,000 pilgrims each year travel to Santiago. Many of whom start on the French/Spanish border, taking four weeks to hike the 480 miles across northern Spain following
 the renown El Camino de Santiago (the Road to Santiago).
 These modern pilgrims are coming from all over the world to make the trek. 

In various small villages, we saw solitary pilgrims on the Camino trekking to Santiago. 
Carrying their kit and supplies on their backs.

They come from Germany...

... England...

...from the Philippines.

On the path, water trickles from a pipe in the hillside, pooling in an old fountain where pilgrims could refill their gourds. Though the sign on the fountain stated: "Water not guaranteed to be sanitary"
The traditional method was to carry water in dry gourds tied to their hiking sticks, 
like the sheepherders did. Today they have canteens and plastic water bottles.


As one nears the cathedral in Santiago, the stone streets become narrower. 
Many building lining the way have a covered walkway for the pilgrims, as here on Rua Nova.

Over the centuries, numerous small cafes sprouted along the path to feed the pilgrims.  
One can either dine in the bright sun or under the arch covered walkway.

A historic stone fountain in Praza das Praterias 
on the back corner of the cathedral, welcomes the arriving pilgrims.

Today this Praza is the entrance to the cathedral, so is a common location 
for those who have made the trek to regroup before entering the main Praza a block further. After hiking many miles as a group sharing pain, thirst and cold, 
for camaraderie they want to enter the Praza together.

What the pilgrims first see when they turn the corner to enter the Praza do Obradoiro...
One of the finest squares in Europe.

Looming on their right is the impressive cathedral of Santiago (Saint James)...
they know now that their quest to reach the site of his tomb is "fait accompli".

Some pilgrims just want to lay back, relish at the sight of the cathedral, 
others are overwhelmed with emotion, having overcoming many hardships together, 
realizing they have achieved their quest, hug and dance with joy.

Now to enjoy the moment, 
basking in the euphoria of their accomplishment,
hiking boots off, text friends and family of their victory.

For groups that have made the journey together, 
now is a much anticipated time to celebrate 
their incredible achievement
by sharing drink and food.

Others nearing exhaustion, 
but not wanting this special moment to end too soon,  
catnap under a Praza arch. 

For all who have walked or bicycled the 480 miles of El Camino de Santiago, 
over steep frigid mountains, across dusty hot plains, through boring miles of vineyards and grain fields,
for the personal sacrifices made, agony endured, fears overcome, refusing to quit,
my hat is off to you for what you have achieved.