Bondi and I left Salamanca at the end of October 2005. It was our first long stay in an alien culture, no local contact or savvy travelling companion, and no language skills beyond "Sesame Street Spanish" which essentially meant I could count to five. We were finding out feet as travellers, and it was appropriate that the blog’s title El Loco y El Lobo arose from these experiences.
Today the hotel I’m sharing with Gustav and Munson is only two minutes' walk from where Bondi and I stayed, and right next to the park where Bondi was exercised with local dogs. The city is looking much cleaner than it was seven years ago - I remember that people tended to just drop rubbish on the streets, believing that taking the extra two steps to a bin would deprive someone of a job. Either attitudes have changed or we've arrived on the heels of an amazing cleaning crew. At hotel reception I volunteer that "Salamanca is looking great", and the receptionist smiles weakly and says it's festival time, so there's extra colour.
The rain in Spain was plainly mainly where we're stayin' but had thankfully ebbed by the time we'd
The Plaza Mayor is busy busy busy, and there's stage scaffolding all around for an evening performance. I take us south first to see the area around the cathedral and university. There are a number of alleys full of beer & tapas tents erected for the festivals which excites Gustav who has been rehearsing "una cervesa por favor" for several days.
The familiar smell of ham recalls the weeks that Bondi and I spent wandering the streets here. The old quarter is beautiful but as I have surely said before, old stones are not enough to sustain one in a new city. Bondi and I had planned to spend two months here, but fled after the first. I’d thought that Salamanca’s size (150,000 or about 2 Wagga Waggas) would be more manageable for a long stay than a larger place like Madrid or Barcelona, but I think it meant there were less options to find a welcoming niche.
We circle back to the Plaza Mayor and cross to the northern streets, which are also choked with people. We pick a bar tent rather arbitrarily and I make my first newbie Spanish mistake by asking for "vino tonto" (wine stupid) rather than "vino tinto" (red wine). Some fried prawns on toast come with the drinks, and they're pretty good.
There's no obviously good place to eat that isn't going to suffer from the pressure of tourist trade, but
One group of ladies passes us a few times and stop for Munson cuddles and "precioso" "bonito" and "muy bonito". The food is pretty good, but the prices on the bill don't seem to bear much relationship to what was printed on the menu. At this point I've kind of given up examining the "Alice in Wonderland" logic of their menus. One of the waitresses had earlier diplomatically rolled her eyes and said she wasn't "completely" surprised - they all appear to be students of different nationalities on working vacations, with enough language skills to cover the bulk of the patrons, if not the intent of the cafe owners.
On our last pass through the Plaza Mayor we can see that the night's music is well in hand. I think Munson could actually feel the seismic vibrations of the Spanish heavy metal band through the street stones back at the cafe. We crash on the bed about 10 or 11, watching a few minutes of dubbed "Moulin Rouge" on the telly.
Munson can't put his head under the bed, but the hotel has thoughtfully provided a window seat of the right height for a sky-falling-phobic malamute to cover his head.