Tag Archives: Valladolid

Ciudad Rodrigo and The Hotel Molina de Águeda

A few weeks after returning from Castilla-la Mancha to the south of Madrid we were returning to Spain and this time to Castilla y Leon to the north of the capital.  We had been here in March this year to Ávila and Segovia but this time we were going further north and west, flying in to Valladolid and staying in the small city of Ciudad Rodrigo.

We had been looking forward to this because Castilla y Leon is as far away from the coastal strip as it is possible to get and is home to half of Spain’s cultural heritage sites including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over two hundred castles and eleven magnificent cathedrals.  It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, which after Chinese and Hindi is the third most common language in the World just ahead of English.

We had a late morning flight and the plane took off into a crisp blue sky with scattered clouds over fresh green fields and autumn gold deciduous woods that looked as though they were lying under a generous sprinkling of brown sugar.  As we flew south the clouds increased and there was nothing to see until we began to descend toward Valladolid where they began to break into various patchy fragments and below us we could see large colourful fields, flaming russet, steel grey, butter cream and saffron yellow broken now and again by bottle green forests, shimmering blue lakes and occasional villages with ochre tiled roofs.

Valladolid airport is only small with limited facilities but there was a sign apologising for this and promising imminent improvements.  We collected a battleship grey Seat Ibiza from the Avis rental car office and set off immediately on the two hundred-kilometre drive to Ciudad Rodrigo.

There were plenty of things to stop and see along the way but it was mid afternoon and we were in a hurry to get to our destination so we took the Autovia de Castilla and with virtually no traffic to share the road with had an easy journey all of the way. We were crossing the Meseta, the great central plain of interior Spain, which at two hundred and ten thousand square kilometres makes up forty percent of the country and has an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres. It is split in two by the Sistema Central, the Guadarrama and Gredos mountain ranges, creating Old Castile to the north (Castilla y Leon) and New Castile to the south (Castilla La Mancha). The northern ‘submeseta’ is the higher of the two at over eight hundred metres and coming from below sea level in Lincolnshire I worried that we might require oxygen cylinders.

After about half way we passed by Salamanca and we could see its golden coloured cathedrals catching the sun and standing proud and high above the city and after that the landscape began to change. We left behind the pretty coloured fields and entered a different environment of green fields and woodlands and more and more livestock.  After a couple of hours of really enjoyable motoring we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walled city and its fortifications standing on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

I knew roughly where the hotel Molina de Águeda was and as we kept an eye open for directions Kim had a brilliant navigational fluke and spotted a half hidden sign that pointed to our destination.  As we pulled into the car park there were a few spots of rain but it came to nothing and there were blue skies above us as we unloaded the car and went inside to reception.  It was a very nice hotel indeed located in an old water mill on the river Agueda, elegantly refurbished and surrounded by woods and we had a good room on the front with a nice view of the river and the old city about a kilometre away.

http://www.hotelmolinodelagueda.com/

It was a pleasant evening, not cold, but the sort of temperature when local people feel the need to put on a coat, hat and scarf but shirt sleeve weather for those of us from northern Europe with thicker blood.  We needn’t have worried about finding somewhere to eat because there was plenty of choice and the place was really busy with families out for a Sunday night on the town.  We found a lively tapas bar where everyone was watching the ‘You’ve been framed’ bullfighting show that we had seen last month in Chinchón and the place was really hectic.

We were the only overseas visitors in the place but we didn’t feel uncomfortable and we found a table and ordered food.  Unfortunately they were so busy that they made a mistake with the order and we only got half of it but it didn’t matter, we weren’t especially hungry anyway and at least it made it a cheaper night out.

A Year in a Life – 7th November, Salamanca and Valladolid

We arrived in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Salamanca just after midday, easily slipped into an underground car park and made our way into the city.  On every visit to Spain I seem to be visiting a new World Heritage Site so when I counted them up I was interested to discover that I have now been to sixteen and that is over a third of them.

In 2005 I visited Barcelona in Catalonia and saw the works of Antoni Gaudi and Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau. Then in 2008 I saw the Historic Centre of Córdoba,  the  Caves of Altamira in Cantabria, the Old Town of Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville.  In 2009 in the motoring holiday around Castilian cities I visited the Old Town of Segovia and its Aqueduct, the Historic Walled Town of Cuenca, the Historic City of Toledo and the Old Town of Ávila.

It was still misty even though the sun was struggling to break through as we walked through cobbled streets and buildings of rich caramel coloured Villamayor stone and directly to the centre of the city.  Then around the University buildings and visited the public library and after that the centre of the city and the inevitable Plaza Mayor where because it was too chilly to sit at a pavement café groups of men were wandering around deep in conversation discussing the important matters of the day.  All  elderly men just as Gerald Brenan explained in ‘South from Granada’ “…almost every Spanish peasant becomes wise when he passes fifty.”

It was a good Plaza, not the best, but still worth a visit and when we had finished admiring it we left through a stone arch and looked for a bar and somewhere for lunch and we found what we were looking for just outside the square so stopped for tapas and a beer.

As we ate an optimistic old lady passed by selling sprigs of rosemary and I didn’t know why until later when I looked it up.  Rosemary, apparently, is widely thought to be a powerful guardian and to give power to women and therefore it is used by many people to ward off evil in the home and bring good luck in family matters. If I had known this at the time I might have bought some to see if it might improve the weather because the mist wasn’t shifting when we left and went to visit the cathedral.

I should say cathedrals because Salamanca has two, an old one and a new one that are joined together into one massive structure.  We paid €3.50 each for tickets to visit and then commenced a tour of the towers and the balconies that involved an awful lot of spiral staircases.  It was a spectacular building and well worth the money but it was a pity about the weather because the drab overcast sky and persistent patches of mist spoilt what would certainly have been spectacular views from the top.

After the visit we returned to the streets and walked to the 1st Century Roman Bridge across the River Tormes, which was flowing west towards the Embalse de Almendra that we had visited yesterday and then with no real prospect of weather improvement we abandoned Salamanca to the mist and returned to the car.

Leaving the city we joined the Autovia de Castilla for the one hundred and twenty kilometre journey back to Valladolid.  It was too early to go straight back to the airport so shortly after crossing the Douro for the final time, and as we were passing, it seemed impolite not to visit the city so we left the motorway and headed for the centre.  Valladolid is a sprawling industrial city, the tenth largest in Spain and does not feature on many tourist itineraries even though it was the city where Christopher Columbus spent his last years and died.  For a big city there was surprisingly little traffic and we followed signs to the centre and the Plaza Mayor and made our way to a convenient underground car park right below the main square.

It was late afternoon and predictably after failing to make an appearance all day the sun was breaking through now and this was good because the expansive Plaza was really very attractive and all decorated and carefully colour coordinated in various complimentary shades of cream and crimson red and the sun settling down low in the west made the whole place feel warm and hospitable.

There was just time to walk the main shopping street, admire some fine art nouveau buildings and have a snack and a drink in a café in the Plaza before it was time to go and return to the airport.  We felt a bit rude leaving so quickly but if we fly again to Valladolid we shall pay it the courtesy of staying longer.

A Life in a Year – 5th November, Ciudad Rodrigo and The Hotel Molina de Águeda

A few weeks after returning from Castilla-la Mancha to the south of Madrid we were returning to Spain and this time to Castilla y Leon to the north of the capital.  We had been here in March this year to Ávila and Segovia but this time we were going further north and west, flying in to Valladolid and staying in the small city of Ciudad Rodrigo.  We had been looking forward to this because Castilla y Leon is as far away from the coastal strip as it is possible to get and is home to half of Spain’s cultural heritage sites including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over two hundred castles and eleven magnificent cathedrals.  It is the birthplace of the Spanish language, which after Chinese and Hindi is the third most common language in the World just ahead of English.

We had a late morning flight and the plane took off into a crisp blue sky with scattered clouds over fresh green fields and autumn gold deciduous woods that looked as though they were lying under a generous sprinkling of brown sugar.  As we flew south the clouds increased and there was nothing to see until we began to descend toward Valladolid where they began to break into various patchy fragments and below us we could see large colourful fields, russet, grey, cream and yellow broken now and again by bottle green forests, shimmering blue lakes and occasional villages with ochre tiled roofs.

Valladolid airport is only small with limited facilities but there was a sign apologising for this and promising imminent improvements.  We collected a steel grey Seat Ibiza from the Avis rental car office and set off immediately on the two hundred-kilometre drive to Ciudad Rodrigo.

There were plenty of things to stop and see along the way but it was mid afternoon and we were in a hurry to get to our destination so we took the Autovia de Castilla and with virtually no traffic to share the road with had an easy journey all of the way. We were crossing the Meseta, the great central plain of interior Spain, which at two hundred and ten thousand square kilometres makes up forty percent of the country and has an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres. It is split in two by the Sistema Central, the Guadarrama and Gredos mountain ranges, creating Old Castile to the north (Castilla y Leon) and New Castile to the south (Castilla La Mancha). The northern ‘submeseta’ is the higher of the two at over eight hundred metres and coming from below sea level in Lincolnshire I worried that we might require oxygen cylinders.

After about half way we passed by Salamanca and we could see its golden coloured cathedrals standing proud and high above the city and after that the landscape began to change. We left behind the pretty coloured fields and entered a different environment of green fields and woodlands and more and more livestock.  After a couple of hours of really enjoyable motoring we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walled city and its fortifications standing on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

I knew roughly where the hotel Molina de Águeda was and as we kept an eye open for directions Kim had another navigational fluke and spotted a half hidden sign that signposted our destination.  As we pulled into the car park there were a few spots of rain but it came to nothing and there were blue skies above us as we unloaded the car and went inside to reception.  It was a very nice hotel indeed located in an old water mill on the river Agueda, elegantly refurbished and surrounded by woods and we had a good room on the front with a nice view of the river and the old city about a kilometre away.

http://www.hotelmolinodelagueda.com/

It was a pleasant evening, not cold, but the sort of temperature when local people need to put on a coat, hat and scarf but shirt sleeve weather for those of us from northern Europe with thicker blood.  We needn’t have worried about finding somewhere to eat because there was plenty of choice and the place was really busy with families out for a Sunday night on the town.  We found a lively tapas bar where everyone was watching the ‘You’ve been framed’ bullfighting show that we had seen last month in Chinchón and the place was really hectic.  We were the only overseas visitors in the place but we didn’t feel uncomfortable and we found a table and ordered food.  Unfortunately they were so busy that they made a mistake with the order and we only got half of it but it didn’t matter, we weren’t especially hungry anyway and at least it made it a cheaper night out.