My Day Trip to Salamanca Spain

Salamanca is a town Northwest of Madrid and in the autonomous community of Castile and León. This city is about 2-3 hours by car or bus from Madrid. I really think visitors to Salamanca should spend one night in this historical city, so they can get a full appreciation of the city and its charm. I went on a day trip and regret not spending more time in Salamanca. I went on my second day tour through BeMadrid. I have enjoyed going on tours with this company because they have a private tour bus, the trips are reasonably priced, good tour guides with great knowledge and suggestions on things to do, bilingual tours, meet in Madrid, and more. If you are living in Madrid, I suggest you use this company to go on day trips. I fell in love with Salamanca’s history, buildings, and small town charm.  I got to see different fascinating and historical structures like the University of Salamanca, Plaza Mayor, and the Cathedral of Salamanca. 11034057_10152878781819024_6842404429112428889_n The University of Salamanca was founded in 1134. It is the oldest founded university in Spain and the fourth oldest European university in continuous operations. The formal title of “University” was granted by King Alfonso X in 1254 and was recognized by Pope Alexander IV in 1255 (Wiki). The history of this university dates back further than my altimatur back in Texas called Texas State University. I find history and old places fascinating. The university is famous for a carving of a frog and skull on the façade above the main entrance of the university.  The façade the frog and skull are on was built during the 16th century.  Also, looking for the frog and skull above the main entrance to the university is a popular thing with students and tourists. Many people will spend a few minutes searching the façade  trying to find the famous carving. Most people are able to find the frog and skull.  I saw the skull, but couldn’t make out the frog. The frog looked like a round ball on top to the skull. Students at the university a tradition that they follow. The students must spot the frog on the skull on the façade of the university or they will not be able to graduate as doctors. The façade was built during the 16th century.  It took me a couple minutes to find the skull and make sense of the strange bump on the skull’s head. Spoiler Alert: The frog is on top of a skull, at the right side of the façade. If you visit this university, you will not regret your trip to see this place. I loved the façade and tried to study the whole piece. So much detail was placed on the façade. It’s worth spending 5 to 10 minutes admiring the craftsmanship and history of the façade. universidad-de-salamanca

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Second place on my list is the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca. Construction of the plaza began in 1729 and was completed in 1755.  The plaza was originally used for bullfighting till the mid-19th century.  In modern Spain, the plaza is used as a place to gather for drinks and tapas, meet friends or family, or just sit down on the ground enjoying the day. It was built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and is a popular gathering area. The plaza has restaurants, ice cream shops, bars, shopping, a pharmacy, and city hall. It is considered the heart of Salamanca and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful plazas in Spain. 11013396_10152875466304024_7250236773088535346_n After the walking tour with the BeMadrid tour guide ended, I was closer to the cathedral of Salamanca and was mis-informed the cathedral closed at five. I had to see the bell tower. After my adventure at cathedral, I went to look for a place to eat lunch. I had a problem! Most of the restaurants I came across were done with serving lunch for the day. May I note that the BeMadrid walking tour cut into the traditional Spanish timeframe to have lunch.  Instead of going to local restaurant, I had to settle for a tourist restaurant with images of the food and menus that used 4 different languages to explain what was served at the restaurant. Let it be! The plus to going to a tourist restaurant was the location in plaza where I sat. I enjoyed sitting outside soaking up some sun and eating my late lunch. Sitting outside was great because of the lovely spring weather. It was fun people watching and getting lunch in the plaza. I will say that the plaza is one of my favourite plazas in Spain.

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My last favourite structure in Salamanca is the old/new cathedral. Salamanca has two cathedrals, the old and the new. The Old Cathedral was built in the 12th century with a Romanesque style . It is closed to the public and only opened during very special occasions.  The New Cathedral is not exactly “new.” It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries with Gothic and Baroque styles. If you enjoy history and architecture, this cathedral should be on your list of things to do in Salamanca. There are many neat things to see and do at this cathedral: find the astronaut and the gargoyle eating ice cream or climbing the bell tower. May I note the bell tower does not close till 20h, So eat something and get some energy! I did not eat lunch before going up to the bell tower. The BeMadrid tour guide was mis-informed about the closing time of the cathedral bell tower, so after the private walking tour ended I rushed to get in line to see the bell tower.  It’s a long hike up to the bell tower, but worth the 3 Euros you spend. I personal would not go inside the cathedral and drop 6 Euros. I have seen grander cathedrals in Sevilla, Segovia, and Barcelona. If you do the bell tower tour, you can see the inside of the cathedral for 3 Euros from above and get a bird’s eye view. To be honest I was not that impressed with the interior of the cathedral, but the exterior was so beautiful!  There are some mysterious carvings on the cathedral’s wall. I was surprised about the carvings. At first I thought the carvings were from the past, but I did some research to understand more about the carvings. From doing research, I discovered that both astronaut and the gargoyle are details added by the craftsmen in charge of doing some restoration work on the Cathedral in 1992. According to Cultural Travel Guide’s website: “It seems it’s a regular practice of these workers to “sign” their works with some interesting details. Jerónimo García, chief restorer chose the astronaut as a symbol of the 20th century and it’s said that the gargoyle represents the students” (Cultural Travel Guide). I think it’s neat that the workers were allowed to leave carvings on the wall. It was fun trying to find these carvings on the cathedral’s wall.

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Salamanca was fun. I enjoyed soaking up the history of this amazing town and some sun. If you plan on doing a nice weekend trip, I recommend you go to Salamanca because its a collage town with a young vibe, lots of history around, and beautiful buildings to admire. Go out west and check out Salamanca! Cheers!

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Parque del Capricho (Park of Capricho) in Madrid

Spring is finally making an appearance in Spain. I’ve spent the last 5 months dealing with cold weather. I am from Texas and not use to having a long cold winter but, I’ve become fond of Spain’s weather. Why? The weather it is more gradual in temperature change. In my opinion, Texas is bipolar with the way the weather trends change so often. For example, in the winter, Texas will experience days where the weather is 80ºF (26ºC) and then the temperature will drop to 32ºF (0ºC). I can’t stand the cold… hot… cold… hot…. weather patterns in Texas.

This past weekend Madrid  started to experience spring like weather. During the past week, I started to notice different trees starting to bloom. The weather became more decent and warmer. It was sunny and the high for the day was 68ºF (20ºC). The temperature was too perfect! I went with a friend to explore the park. My friend and I wanted to explore a new part in the city and take pictures. I had received suggestions from other people to visit Prque del Capricho. This park was perfect for us!

The park was created by the Duchess Maria Josefa de la Soledad Alsono Pimentel in 1784. After the death of the Duchess, the Park began to lose popularity with public. It was not until 1974 when the City of Madrid bought and began to restore the park.  The project to restore the park was finished in 1999.

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The park houses important botanical, sculptural, and artistic treasures. Among them are shrines, hermitages, fountains, small plazas, and the palace of dukes, among others. The garden is composed of three sections: the parterre or French garden, the English landscape, and the Italian giardino. The Italian garden is in the lower section and is the oldest part of the original property. There are hedges that are combined with trees. The trees are ideal for people to use as shade from the sun. Nearby, is a  maze that is made up of laurel trees. The maze is the same as the original plans used during the period when the Duchess was alive. The last section of the park is designed as a typical English landscape garden. This park is best for leisure strolls with company . There are many hidden places that are worth checking out.

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When I was in this park, I forgot that I live in a big city. I love going to parks to get close to nature. Once and a while, I get over whelmed with the concrete jungle that I live and work in. I love the city, but going to the country or a park lkeeps me sane. I grew up in a city where there were a lot of parks, greenbelts, and nature preserves. I miss the Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake) Hike and Bike Trail back in Austin, Texas. I am grateful for Madrid having the most green zones and parks in Europe. Get out and see this park! You will enjoy your time in Parque del Capricho.

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Within a month, I plan to return to this park. I want to catch the peak of the blooming season. This park is very clean compared to Retrio. I didn’t see any trash on the grounds. In my view, this park is well kept. The grass is very green and lush. I like this park more than Retiro because it is not as popular with tourists. The metro ride is only a 35 minute ride. You can take line 5 to El Capricho. From the metro the park is only a 10 to 15 minute walk. You can’t bring food or drinks into the park. The park is free to enter. I would suggest this park to anyone wanting to see new things in Madrid.