The 8:55 train to Salamanca left the Madrid station on time. My car/coach (number 4) was full! The journey was fast and other than a rather unusual incident when the passenger seated next to me asked who I thought was the ticket inspector, for a “selfie”! He obliged and I thought nothing more of it until we pulled into Salamanca Central to be greeted by a crowd of excited locals with cameras poised. They formed a semicircle around the door as I alighted! Now I realise that Spain has fallen in tough economic times but I wondered do they really need to welcome who may be the sole international tourist on the train to Salamanca this morning in such a fashion? Sadly I was ignominiously ignored and instead I gather the current prime minister, masquerading as the ticket inspector, was a passenger in coach 4! Its the sort of thing that Malcolm Turnbull does! At least I think that was the Prime minister from my attempt to converse with a rather exuberant middle aged Spanish woman
Salamanca is delightful! It yet again reinforces my 2 day rule when it comes to escaping the capital cities. It has a vaguely similar ambience to it as Lecce. The baroque style sandstone buildings, more yellow than the pale crumbling cream stone of Italian Lecce. The Hotel Don Gregorio is almost as good as that in Lecce as well! My travel agent has exceeded his brief.
Today, Sunday is sunny yet with a biting wind, ideal weather to test my thermal gear prior to the big bike ride! Tomorrow I bus to Porto and the forecast is for snow at least in Salamanca but warmer at my destination! At 10am this Sunday I am the sole human promenading around this world heritage site. The wind ominously cuts through my merino “skins”, I creep into the nearest cathedral. My cheeks a youthful healthy glow, confuse the seminarian in the ticket office who denies me a seniors discount! I try my next trick and discreetly mention my close personal friend Cardinal Pell! The seminarian becomes flustered and wrings both hands, then repeatedly tugs the tassels of his cassock. With a knowing wink he waves me through. As I am leaving he beckons me across to his window and with an endearing giggle, confides in me that when he was studying in Rome last year (“The Art of Genuflection”) he became a close personal friend of Cardinal Pell too! I was about to exclaim “well bugger me”… When I rapidly realised the handsome Hispanic cleric may well have misconstrued this uniquely Australian slang, even if he had hung around with the Cardinal for a few months.
I am dining tonight at a restaurant a few doors up from the hotel. Again I am the sole customer but it is early for goodness sake – 8:30pm. The waiter efficiently produces the menu in English, I order “secret pork in mango chutney”. He disappears into the office and before I can say “swoon “, Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters croon their way serenely into the restaurant and at a thoughtfully discrete decibel level, I can hear myself think….this establishment has passed the first step and whats more the second step as the bread roll is crisp, warm and fresh. The house red is a local Tempranillo, I may just end up having a second glass! The main arrives!
It’s definitely local or home style cooking! The pork is essentially a sort of schnitzel, the mango chutney rather unappealing – a bright yellow side dish that looks like a good sized dollop of scrambled egg! I forego the iPhone photo and the second glass of Tempranillo instead settling down with an universally mediocre coffee. Bing is joined by Frank Sinatra and the dulcet duo sing about never ending love… Could things get any worse?…. tomorrow it is forecast to snow!